A food revolution?

A food revolution, can you see one coming?

Having witnessed the rapid rise of all food prices, but particularly dairy on the back of a world food shortage, it is time to give this matter some serious consideration. What has happened is demand has exceeded supply resulting in a considerable price rise. Skim milk power, for example, has doubled in price in recent months.

The demand for all grain has risen along with world prices. Grain is now in the three way competition:
  • For stock feed (95% of the world's dairy production comes from dairy cows);
  • For fuel production (ethanol and such like); and
  • For human consumption
Human consumption is the most alarming aspect of it all. Where grain was once diverted to poorer countries to feed their nation, we may well witness this slowing down. One of the reasons is that it takes as much grain to feed one person for a year as it does to run an SUV for a week. Many countries have been net exporters of grain and these countries are now the net importers.

The United States is one of the largest grain producers but is under pressure. Australia, also a large producer and exporter, is under pressure after the eleventh drought in a row. More than that, food and vegetable prices to the local population and consumers are rising rapidly as the drought bites.

We are now demanding to know where our food actually comes from. New Zealand chose not to support a policy of identifying food source but is now back tracking rapidly. Pick up a can of fruit and you are likely to find it has "Made in China" on the label. Sadly, we know that their food standards are well below ours. And you may ask, how do they peel those peaches? My understanding is they are peeled with acid: does that get into the food chain?

Brand protection by New Zealand companies is going to be crucial. It may become that the public will resist purchasing well known NZ branded products that are actually processed in China. The public is going to go back to consuming home grown food.

The public want to know the source of food and how it has been treated. That is, gate to plate. We have already identified this issue by selling our own avocados, branded as naturally grown and direct from the grower, with amazing results.

Farmers markets are blossoming as the public move away from plastic supermarket environments to point of source and feel happy to consume food they know is natural and better for them. Organics seem to be on the rise and if you look at supermarkets around the world, many of them have a large organic section. We will see a continued flight to quality as the public demands to know where their food is coming from, how it was grown and what it was fed.

The food shortage will increase demand and see this country move quickly to try and produce more. We just need to look at our own dairy industry as the prices rise. There were 16 conversions in Southland for this current season alone. As people strive for better quality they are returning to growing a vegetable garden in their backyards. The food is grown there, they know what has gone into the soil, and while they might have to wash a few bugs from it, it has to be better for them.

We as consumers are also moving, albeit slowly, towards more fruit and vegetables as we realise that processed food is not good for us. We only have to look at the US economy where they all eat highly processed food and their health costs are twice that of any other nation in the world.

No doubt, we will try and source meat direct from our farming friends where we know it has been fed on grass and supplement with no growth stimulants.

In summary, there is a distinct shift coming. The public is becoming more aware of the food issues, what's in them and how they are grown. We want to know if it is good for us and, when it's on our plate, whose gate did it come from. More than that, the world demand for all food is going to put more pressure on existing suppliers. Maybe we should stop calling ourselves farmers and try using the title "Food Producers". As food producers, we may look at changing the way we produce food and manage it into the markets.


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