Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Remember the food crisis warnings?


Last year, everybody from the United Nations downwards was warning in strident tones about a food crisis, where not enough food would be produced to feed the world.  We spoke of it in these pages often enough.

Read the following report in that light.

Cofigeo, a group which owns several food companies in France, has shut down four of its eight factories over energy costs, amounting to 80 per cent of its total production.

. . .

“This decision aims to cope with the spectacular increase in its energy costs (gas and electricity necessary for cooking and sterilizing cooked dishes and recipes), which will be multiplied by 10 from the beginning of the year,” the group said in a statement this week.

The group warned that its energy costs were set to surge this year, with president Mathieu Thomazeau saying, “It will go overnight, from 4 million to 40 million euros.”

Cofigeo is the first major food producer to enact such radical measures to deal with the costs of energy but according to Le Figaro, other companies in the sector are also facing great difficulty adjusting to the rising prices of energy.

Last month, Perifem, a federation of French supermarket chains, warned that France could face major issues with food spoilage due to possible power outages and cuts, as many supermarkets would not have adequate time to prepare for outages.

. . .

Energy to cook and preserve food for canning or ready-meals is not the only place that energy security and food security intersect. As reported by Breitbart London in recent months, the sudden surge in energy prices has also impacted the production of fertiliser, which is an energy-intensive process requiring natural gas. Without ready access to modern fertilisers, the crop yields of European farms can be expected to collapse.

There's more at the link.

That's one firm, in one country.  Now multiply that by many firms in most European countries (including Britain, which may no longer be part of the European Union but still follows much the same policies).  Yes, the problem is that widespread.  There's lots of information out there about it, if you exercise due diligence and look for it.  Add to food companies those that produce fertilizer, and the raw materials for same (including German giant BASF, which is the biggest supplier in the world of nitrogen fertilizers, AFAIK).  They're in trouble, too.

When enough companies have such problems, there will come a tipping point.  Worse, once that capacity leaves the food growing, processing and distribution market, it can't come back overnight.  We're talking at least one growing season, if not two or three, to restore it.  That's between six months and two or three years.

Got your food reserves in order?  I used to reckon on a minimum of ten days to two weeks for everybody.  Now I'm thinking two to three months of food may be the new minimum, and a year's supply is no longer merely a prepper's way-out-there wet dream.  I've been surprised to hear from many readers that they're aiming for that much of a food reserve, as soon as they can save (and buy) enough.  If you can afford it, or build it up over time, and have space to store it, why not?

As for fertilizers, just ask your local farmers what they're having to pay to get deliveries for their 2023 crops.  In this part of the world, many are paying five to six times what they did last year.  Some are only paying three times as much, because they had the foresight to lock in multi-year contracts;  but even they have been told by their suppliers to pay higher prices, or do without.  They have no choice but to pay up - or quit farming.  Some have drastically altered their crop plans, choosing those that need less fertilizer.  We may have a glut of soybeans next year, but a real shortage of wheat and corn.

Food for thought, as well as the body.



Jester said...

Keep in mind the doubling at minimum (I'm actually tracking 135% or so inflation on most foods right now based off 2 years ago) is with out largely significant in the US food shortages/crop losses. At least by our standards. When the reduction of supply really hits because it's not in the feilds I expect to see some breathtaking increases on your grocery store bill. It just will not be available to purchase in the quantities of which we have grown to expect. The inflation prices we have seen till about this point have been on largely existing food commodities. Meaning sitting in storage or already processed and in the distribution pipeline. Watch out when that's gone folks. Get it while you can now or get the seeds and materials you need to grow as much of your own

SiGraybeard said...

This arithmetic 101. If costs go up by a factor of 10, that portion of the cost of the product has to go up by a factor of 10. Chances are that every supplier they buy from is facing similar problems, so the cost of everything will go up like that. They may not want to do that and are closing down to get the French gubmint to go after the root cause (the stupid greenies) but that just compounds the problem. Someone wants to kill off all of Western civilization.

The Western world needs to go on strike to shut down this insanity. No serious model of the climate has the doomsday scenarios in it, only the biggest lunatics trying to shock people into donating to their organization or to get their five minutes of fame.

And the serious models are seriously overstating things, too. The "man" behind "manmade climate change" is the guy adjusting the data.

Dave said...

Peter, do you know which US company is not honoring its contract with the farmers?

Peter said...

There's also the factor of those who were employed at the closed factories. They're now out of work, dependent on welfare programs to keep themselves and their families alive: but they're having to pay those vastly increased costs for food, energy, etc. - and I bet their welfare payments have not been increased anything like enough to compensate for that.

Government support programs, entitlement programs, etc. are about to be gutted by a huge increase in demand. The only solution the bureaucrats have is to take on more debt and print more money - but that's what got us into this mess in the first place.

Interesting times, Chinese curse version.

Peter said...

@Dave: I've heard of three companies (distributors, not manufacturers) that have done so, but for obvious liability reasons, I can't disclose their names here. Hearsay evidence is not admissible in court.

Virginia Granny said...

Food for thought:

If you figure 2500(ish) calories per person per day, that's 2,500 x 365 = 912,500 calories per person for a year. If the (ish) factor predominates, due to the need for more calories because of heavy physical labor, then rounding up a bit gives you about ONE MILLION calories required per person for a year.

Have you given much thought to (a) total daily number of calories required, (b) need for fruits/veggies/vitamins/minerals - all of which tend to be much lower-caloried/less nutritionally concentrated than beans or flour, (c) need for variety in meals so that you don't suffer food "exhaustion," to figure out what and how much to stash?

These three factors are as important as quantity, perhaps more so. Shortages of vitamins lead rather quickly to scurvy, pellagra, beriberi, etc., all extremely unpleasant. Mineral shortages affect skeletal health, teeth, and muscles/joints.

If you can, acquire additional food supplies. Now is the hour. 2023 is going to be a year to remember, for true, and for sure. (h/t Quigley)

Old NFO said...

Add in the issues on the Mississippi, and the lost crops rotting in the fields because they can't ship... And I can see paring the grocery list back to essentials and nothing else coming.

Dave said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks! I would prefer that you don't have to blog from the slammer.

Charlie said...

We are at 6 months of stuff before needing to go out.
Nutritious and balanced. The means to prepare it at hand.

After 6 months, I see gaps opening up.

If things are not on track to recover after 6 months, May God have mersy on all out souls.

sooperedd said...

I don't think the average working person has a clue how many Americans receive government subsistence.
We simply can not survive with this staggering amount of non-producers.

John in Indy said...

One that I have recently heard of was that BNSF Rilroad (Buffett) had demanded that a Texas fertilizer producer cut shipments by some 30-40% or be denied service at all.
Look also at the statement by BASF in Germany that if they have to shut down their multi-product plant (10 square kilometers of factory, each section using the waste heat and outputs of other sections as feedstock) that they might never be able to restart it. It has been running without a break since 1953.
Prepare as though Murphy is looking over your shoulder, and hope / fight for the best outcome.
Realize that we who are willing to fight for and teach the survival of Western Civilization are the Irish monks of the coming Dark Ages.

John in Indy said...

We are not intended to survive.
Survive and thrive, and take satisfaction in pissing on their graves.

PeterW. said...

Most of my planting next year will be barley…. Your beer supplies are secure. 👍

There’s a significant chance that we’ll be dropping back into an El Nino weather pattern, so a short-season crop with lower inputs than wheat, seems appropriate.
The Israelites made barley-bread when the Midianite raiders stole all their wheat. (It was the Midianites wasn’t it? )

Xoph said...

Keep in mind many businesses with multi-year contracts are in the position of going out of business if they keep those contracts. They give the customers the choice of pay me more than the contract says or I go out of business.

SiGrayBeard - the problem is the people in charge are running down this path. I really think at least 2/3 of the population sees through the BS. However, there is no way to hold our leaders accountable (stolen elections) nor can we starve the beast for funds.
Anything you buy is taxed, income tax, etc. and let us not forget the printing presses.

As a small rancher I'm quite worried. I can see the locusts descending to loot when the cities run low on food. I'm pretty hard to find, but not by the government. I can see bureaucrats deciding all my livestock is needed to feed people now and we'll worry about getting more later. I see the impending problem but TPTB are working on exacerbating the problem, not mitigating it. Based on my trend analysis, I expect them to pick the option most likely to be the most damaging. This ain't gonna be an 8 sec ride.

The Freeholder said...

It's all going according to plan. And I suspect even the most conspiracy-minded conspiracy theorist probably has no inkling who is doing this to us.

Ozborn said...

In Kansas fertilizer costs are the same or a bit lower than last year. Still about 2X the 5-yr average, but it's not getting worse. Natural gas prices are stable-to-falling, which is the largest impact on fertilizer pricing. Other markets may vary, but national fertilizer markets (DTN) match the stable-to-falling trend. If prices are up substantially or product is unavailable locally, look for a transportation-based cause.

James said...

The western half of the country is still under a 1200 year drought. All the fertilizer in the world won't work without water.

Ozborn said...

The western US drought is caused by the persistent La Nina cycle (what would be our rain ending up in W. Asia because of sea temps and wind patterns). Both the Australians and NOAA predict a break in the cycle towards a normal pattern at the end of 1Q2023 - if accurate, farmers from Texas to Canada will have some confidence in rainfall for corn, hay, spring wheat and soybeans. However, if it doesn't break we're going to approach 1930s Dust Bowl drought conditions (likely with less erosion, but horrid production).

Also watch for Bayer, et al to start pushing more drought-tolerant crop varieties, solidifying their control on commodity production in North America.