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Social Issues
Cheap Food Is About To Become A Thing Of The Past, UN Says
June 13, 2013
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A farmer in Chicago, Illinois weighs peppers in September, 2011 (Photo: Getty)

Say goodbye to your cheap groceries: experts say the price of food will go up over the next decade thanks to a combination of higher energy costs, lower productivity growth and increased demand.

That's the word from a new report, 'Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022', by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Farm goods have stayed affordable in recent years as crop yields have risen and oil prices stayed low, but those low prices "seem now a feature of a bygone era," the report's authors say.

"With energy prices high and rising and production growth declining across the board, strong demand for food, feed, fibre and industrial uses of agricultural products is leading to structurally higher prices and with significant upside price risks," according to the report.

Climate Change
Crops damaged by flooding in Iowa in 2008 (Photo: Getty)

Climate change is one culprit for the expected price increases. The report cites "increasing environmental pressures," like storms, drought and flooding, as one of the main factors that will slow the growth of food production worldwide.

China, which accounts for about one-fifth of the world's population, is expected to face heavy impacts from water shortages brought on by variable rainfall.

The country will face various other challenges as well, the report warns: "food availability will be impacted by changes in temperature, water availability, extreme weather events, soil condition, and pest and disease patterns."

Expensive Meat And Fish
A customer looks over the meat section at a New York grocery store in 2010 (Photo: Getty)

As for which foods are expected to cost the most, it looks like meat and fish prices will rise more than vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Even as prices rise, though, meat production is expected to increase over the next ten years, the report says, as China becomes the world's biggest consumer of pork by 2022.

What We Can Do
Discarded food in Morsbach, France, October 2012 (Photo: Getty)

So what can we do to help keep food prices reasonable?

The report suggests that reducing food waste is one key to meeting the demands of the global population.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency found that Americans throw away as much as 40 per cent of the food produced in that country.

And another study from earlier this year by the UK-based Institute of Mechanical Engineers finds that between 30 and 50 per cent of food around the world goes to waste because of inefficient farming practices and consumer habits.

The current FAO/OECD report also points out the effect of unsustainable farming practices: "There is a growing need to improve the sustainable use of available land, water, marine ecosystems, fish stocks, forests and biodiversity," the report says.

"It is estimated that some 25 per cent of all agricultural land is highly degraded, with growing water scarcity a fact for many countries. Many fish stocks are over-exploited, or in risk of being over-exploited."

George is Canada's Ambassador Against Hunger for the World Food Programme (WFP). You may have noticed that guests on the show drink from distinctive red cups.

WFP uses red cups (along with some other colours) in its School Feeding programs, serving millions of children porridge and other meals.

You can read more about the red cups here.

And here's a PSA with George and a host of other celebrities urging Canada to 'Fill The Cup.'

Via Grist


Is Climate Change To Blame For Soaring Food Prices?

How Much Food Do We Waste? Probably A Lot More Than You Think

New Report Finds Almost Half Of The World's Food Goes To Waste


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