Rising food prices

A couple of months ago Steve discussed a book called “The Rational Optimists” which is rather bullish about humanity’s ability to solve our current challenges. One portion of the book focused on agriculture and the dramatic procuctivity increases during the green revolution.

The other day I checked out some historic production data and found to my amazement that for example global wheat output has only increased 10% since 1990. Given that ever more people demand more food especially the rising middle classes in India and China it is no wonder that prices increase while supply cannot keep pace.

Our resident alarmist is at it again.

  1. Shall we eliminate some people?
  2. Look at how much more wheat can be grown, just in Europe alone.
  3. Russia and the Ukraine will grow more.
  4. There will be other long term changes in food supply

Or should we dictate that China and India should stay poor, or should we dictate that people in the developed world eat less?

In the developed world, we need: less consumerism, less waste.

In the developing world, something needs to be done about population growth.

I think we should try to eat less meat: one kg of meat requires 7kg of grain input.

I think what would be a breakthrough is food production that requires less input of water and fossil fuels. The productivity gains of the green revolution have largely been achieved by massive input of fossil fuels in different forms.


I think it is somewhat arrogant by Westeners to mandate population control in the third world. Remember this: The US has a population double that of China if you factor in resource consumption. One US American consumes more than ten times of what an average Chinese does.

To me, US is the unfortunate exception.

As I understand it, population throughout Europe has been relatively steady, even decling, for the most part. And consumption there is no where near as bad as in the US.

If you take Bangladesh and Norway as examples. Bangladesh is less than half Norway’s size in terms of land mass, but has more than 30 times its population. Poverty is a huge problem, but the situation only gets worse with overpopulation.