Displaying items by tag: Food Security
From The Province - March .6, 2011
by Susan Lazaruk & Glenda Luymes
Expect to pay more per mouthful as global unrest and rising fuel prices drive up the cost of food both internationally and at home.
That’s the message from analysts as Canada’s wholesale suppliers and grocers are hinting they may pass on rising commodity prices to consumers.
“We’ve heard from suppliers in the last few weeks that they expect to raise prices up to five per cent,” Union Gospel Mission spokesman Derek Weiss said Saturday.
Weiss said the latest increases are part of a larger trend. UGM increased its food budget by about five per cent from 2008 to 2009, but higher-than-anticipated costs actually resulted in a 10 per cent increase.
Projections for 2011 are similar.
“This hits us two ways,” he said. “We’re facing higher costs, but our clients are also being squeezed. A pinch for us is a genuine plight for them.”
CEO of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society Cheryl Carline said rising food prices will “impact us in a big way,” adding the foods most affected are staples.
“It’s difficult because the factors that are affecting prices are, to a large degree, external to the country as a whole, and there’s not a lot we can do about it.”
Sustained increases in the cost of food commodities are also expected to trickle down every aisle of the grocery store by year’s end, according to analysts.
BMO Capital Markets economist Kenrick Jordan said there’s always a lag between higher commodity prices and consumer food prices, so shoppers should expect a five- to seven-per-cent jump in consumer food prices.
“We’re concerned as a business and we’re concerned as consumers,” said Frank Deacon, general manager at Stong’s Market, an independent grocery store in Vancouver.
He said the rise in prices for corn and wheat, caused by the drought in China, and in meat and deli products is worrying and noted “produce is completely affected by the rising oil prices, especially at this time of year when everything is coming from the U.S. and Mexico.”
He said as an independent, Stong’s buyers can price out new suppliers weekly to look for the lowest wholesale price to try to keep prices low but there are some hikes it can’t avoid, like the five per cent minimum increase for Weston’s bakery products announced last week.
“(Baked goods) is not something we can shop around for,” he said.
Deacon said customers can expect increases in the cereal and pasta aisles generally and for certain produce items because of the recent cold snap on the Pacific Coast.
Rising fuel prices and uncertainty in oil-producing countries like Libya are only compounding the situation, said David Wilkes with the Retail Council of Canada. Canada’s highly competitive grocery sector can only shield food shoppers from higher prices for so long, he added.
According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of unleaded gas in Vancouver Saturday was 129.9, up from 126.4 last week, 120.5 one month ago and 114 last year at this time.
For their part, Canada’s major grocers — including Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro Inc. and Walmart Canada — declined to comment on possible price hikes.
Their response comes after the Weston foods division of George Weston Inc. announced the company is increasing the price of its bun and bread products by an average of five per cent, beginning next month. This means retail grocers will have to pay the baked good giants more for products sold under brands such as Harvest Country bread, Wonder Bread, Weston and D’Italiano — and decide whether to pass on the difference to shoppers.
Local restaurateurs have been dealing with steadily-rising food prices for months.
Contacted recently about the cost of tomatoes due to a cold snap in Mexico, co-owner of Vera’s Burger Shack Gerald Tritt said weather always plays a role in produce availability, “but there doesn’t seem to be an end to the rising of food prices in general.”
Tritt blamed natural disasters, political instability in wheat-producing nations and the use of corn for fuel.
“It’s typical to experience some shortages, but I think people need to get ready for a major jolt in the economy of food,” he told The Province.
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From New York Times - Feb 7, 2011
by Paul Krugman
We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years.
World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in
the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had
only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by
historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s
poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs.
The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all,
the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes
in the Middle East isn’t so much why they’re happening as why they’re
happening now. And there’s little question that sky-high food prices
have been an important trigger for popular rage.
So what’s behind the price spike? American right-wingers (and the
Chinese) blame easy-money policies at the Federal Reserve, with at
least one commentator
declaring that there is “blood on Bernanke’s hands.” Meanwhile,
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France blames speculators, accusing them of
“extortion and pillaging.”
But the evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While
several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really
stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted
agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the
kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse
gases change our climate — which means that the current food price
surge may be just the beginning.
Now, to some extent soaring food prices are part of a general commodity
boom: the prices of many raw materials, running the gamut from aluminum
to zinc, have been rising rapidly since early 2009, mainly thanks to
rapid industrial growth in emerging markets.
But the link between industrial growth and demand is a lot clearer for,
say, copper than it is for food. Except in very poor countries, rising
incomes don’t have much effect on how much people eat.
It’s true that growth in emerging nations like China leads to rising
meat consumption, and hence rising demand for animal feed. It’s also
true that agricultural raw materials, especially cotton, compete for
land and other resources with food crops — as does the subsidized
production of ethanol, which consumes a lot of corn. So both economic
growth and bad energy policy have played some role in the food price
Still, food prices lagged behind the prices of other commodities until last summer. Then the weather struck.
Consider the case of wheat, whose price has almost doubled since the
summer. The immediate cause of the wheat price spike is obvious: world
production is down sharply. The bulk of that production decline,
according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, reflects a sharp
plunge in the former Soviet Union. And we know what that’s about: a
record heat wave and drought, which pushed Moscow temperatures above 100
degrees for the first time ever.
The Russian heat wave was only one of many recent extreme weather
events, from dry weather in Brazil to biblical-proportion flooding in
Australia, that have damaged world food production.
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A panel discussion on closed-containment salmon farming at last week's global Seafood Summit, held in Vancouver, highlighted both the encouraging progress of the emerging industry and the real challenges it faces to becoming large-scale competitor to open net pen farms. Notably, it reinforced a recent shift in the discussion. As one participant summarized, "The conversation has gone from, 'Is it feasible?' to 'Where is it going to happen, how soon, and how much can it grow?'"
From the Vancouver Sun - Feb 4, 2011
by Kelly Sinoski
Mega-sized homes could eat into land reserved for food production, officials fear
How much did the value of your Metro Vancouver home rise in the last five years? Find out in our pictoral analysis here.
METRO VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver has asked the provincial government to help curb a proliferation of mega-sized estate homes that continue to sprawl across the region’s prime agricultural land.
The issue was part of a discussion Thursday about the region’s draft food strategy.
Metro directors fear the large homes, some as big as 15,000 square feet on five- and 10-acre lots and often coupled with tennis courts, swimming pools and illegal secondary suites, will lead to the loss of valuable agricultural land for future food production.
“When you have huge mansions, you can’t do anything with that, and potentially that land will never be farmed again,” said Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean, who also sits on Metro’s agricultural committee. “We don’t have an issue with estate homes — if they’re in the city. But we really think that if this continues we’ll lose critical mass for farming.
“If the ALR is there for a purpose, [the province] should be defending the uses of it.”
The B.C. Agriculture Ministry said it agrees with Metro’s concerns and last month released a draft discussion paper aimed at helping local governments regulate residential uses on ALR land.
The paper, considered by Metro’s agriculture committee Thursday, suggests limits could be applied to the size, scale and siting of the farm’s “home plate” — the footprint for residential uses and the house itself. A large house not only increases the cost of agricultural property — making it unaffordable for new farmers — but if it’s in the middle of the parcel, rather than at the front of the lot near the road or in a corner of the property, there’s less land available for farming.
Metro has asked staff to come back with recommendations on the home plate issue by March 3.
“We do share [Metro’s] concerns, particularly if large homes in a community can only be built in farming areas,” said Bert van Dalfsen, the agriculture ministry’s manager of strengthening farm programs. “We don’t want to have a lot of large homes on farmland.”
At the moment, Metro municipalities take an ad hoc approach when it comes to ALR land. Although Delta restricts homes in the ALR to the maximum size permitted in urban areas, others are at a loss when residents apply to build a mega home in the middle of a five-acre lot, an illegal suite over a barn or to cover prime farmland with a tennis court.
Yet any attempts to put restrictions in place are met with vocal opposition from residents, many of whom have built the larger homes for recreation or hobby farms.
Pitt Meadows, for instance, abandoned its plans to impose a home plate limit of 11,000 square feet on a 10-acre property after a public outcry. It has since approved a bylaw requiring all applications for secondary homes on ALR land to undergo an agrologist assessment to justify the claim that they’re needed to house farm workers.
“We have very, very good land and we want to maintain that land,” MacLean said, adding 85 per cent of Pitt Meadows is in the ALR. “People are looking at this as a property rights issue. We’re saying, ‘You’re in a special use area. If you tried to put up a home that went corner to corner to corner in Vancouver, somebody would come along and say you can’t have a permit for that.”
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From CBC.ca - Feb 1, 2011
Greenpeace Canada says a survey of 14 major tuna fish brands sold in
the country suggests most of them come from destructive fishery
A report by the environmental organization gives a passing grade to
only two brands — Wild Planet Foods and Raincoast Trading — because they
use more selective fishing gear, support more locally owned operations
and provide clearer labelling for consumers.
Ocean Fisheries took third place, while several house brand tuna sold by grocery stores followed down the ranking list.
Popular brand Clover Leaf, which holds the largest market share of
Canada's canned seafood, was ranked 11th and didn't respond to the
"Unico came in last after not responding to Greenpeace's
questionnaire and having no publicly available information suggesting
any type of policy or sustainability commitment," the report authors
Greenpeace said tuna stocks are on the decline and are plagued by
overfishing and harvesting techniques that threaten other marine life,
including turtles, sharks and sea birds.
The organization said it wants supermarket chains and canned fish
brands to provide tuna from sustainable sources and avoid illegal and
"Canned tuna is a staple in many Canadian homes and is found in every
supermarket chain, but that could change if tuna sourcing doesn’t,"
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Sarah King said in a statement.
A report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on
Monday said global fish consumption hit record levels in 2008, thanks in
large part to the growing fish-farming industry. However, the report
also noticed that many fisheries — including most tuna stocks — are
still struggling due to overfishing.
Because systemic thinking explores beyond simplicities to complexities, a study of food production for such an enormous population must also consider the constraints imposed by limited supplies of water, an essential agricultural ingredient that is now becoming scarce as demand continues to rise beyond availability. Oil is another constraining factor. Huge quantities are required for fertilizing, planting, harvesting, transporting and processing.
From Straight.com - Jan 18, 2011
by Matthew Burrows
The B.C. NDP’s only Vancouver Island–based leadership candidate has said he believes the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam is unnecessary at this point in time.
“Each pulp mill or sawmill that shuts down, that’s more power that’s available to B.C. Hydro through the existing supply,” John Horgan, long-time NDP energy critic, told the Straight
by phone today (January 18). “Housing starts have not been what they
were projected to be in 2005-2006, so residential demand is not growing
at the rate that B.C. Hydro projected. So my view is that Site C is not
required at this time, and there are other potentially lower-cost,
best-use options available to the corporation.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Horgan confirmed the NDP still supports a moratorium on any new run-of-river power projects.
If the NDP forms government, it would review the power-purchase
agreements made by B.C. Hydro and private power producers in order to
ensure they are in the “public interest”, according to him.
“If it’s determined that they are not in the public interest, after the
light of day has been shone upon them, then we would take action to
rectify that. What that action is would depend on what the deficiencies
are,” Horgan said.
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From The Economist - Dec 9, 2010
WHEN you run out of land in a crowded city, the solution is obvious:
build upwards. This simple trick makes it possible to pack huge numbers
of homes and offices into a limited space such as Hong Kong, Manhattan
or the City of London. Mankind now faces a similar problem on a global
scale. The world’s population is expected to increase to 9.1 billion by
2050, according to the UN. Feeding all those people will mean increasing
food production by 70%, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture
Organisation, through a combination of higher crop yields and an
expansion of the area under cultivation. But the additional land
available for cultivation is unevenly distributed, and much of it is
suitable for growing only a few crops. So why not create more
agricultural land by building upwards?
Such is the thinking behind vertical farming. The idea is that
skyscrapers filled with floor upon floor of orchards and fields,
producing crops all year round, will sprout in cities across the world.
As well as creating more farmable land out of thin air, this would slash
the transport costs and carbon-dioxide emissions associated with moving
food over long distances. It would also reduce the spoilage that
inevitably occurs along the way, says Dickson Despommier, a professor of
public and environmental health at Columbia University in New York who
is widely regarded as the progenitor of vertical farming, and whose
recently published book, “The Vertical Farm”, is a manifesto for the
idea. According to the UN’s Population Division, by 2050 around 70% of
the world’s population will be living in urban areas. So it just makes
sense, he says, to move farms closer to where everyone will be living.
Read full article here
Hemmed in by Delta to the east, Point Roberts to the
south and the Salish Sea to the west, Southlands is a 538-acre farm that
has been in the middle of a tug-of-war between developers and farmland
defenders for nearly four decades.
The president of the development company
that owns Southlands has proposed a plan that he says could serve both
interests equally. Proponents argue that it could serve as a model for a
new form of planning -- agricultural urbanism -- where people and farms
can co-exist. Opponents fear it will only drive up the prices of
already expensive, and scarce, farmland in the region.
Read the full Tyee article here