Is this the end of cheap food?

The Guardian reports that food prices are rising dramatically, which is coming as a surprise to “UK shoppers aged under 50 [who] have so far never experienced food-price inflation”.

The article cites four reasons for the price increase:

1. Oil prices: “$100 a barrel means food that is four-times as expensive to plant, irrigate, harvest and transport as it was six years ago. Some commodities brokers are now betting on oil going to $200 a barrel within a decade.”

2. Climate: “drought, hurricanes and floods around the world last year made for terrible harvests – from Australia to the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.”

3. Market speculation and use of crops for fuel: “Since George Bush announced a rush to corn-based ethanol it’s done well for American corn farmers – 20 per cent of whose harvest, subsidised by the government, went into fuel tanks rather than flour mills this year.”

4. Economic boom in China and India: “Around the world, and through history, people have eaten more meat as they have become richer. This is called the nutrition transition and it’s now happening, very quickly, in the two most populous nations on the planet.”

Jacques Diouf, head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, spoke recently of a ‘very serious crisis’ brought about by the rise in food prices and the rise in the oil price. Various global economic bodies are forecasting rises of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent over the next decade.