Another Reminder of the Food Crisis….

Sharon November 8th, 2010

In this fascinating series by The Guardian on food casualties of our ecological crisis.  Well worth a read for everyone!  Consider tomatoes, which are causing riots in Egypt, quite literally. 

They are as much part of the Middle Eastern diet as hummus and olive oil, but the rocketing price of tomatoes has led many families to treat them as an expensive delicacy.

The cost of a kilogram of the usually ubiquitous red fruit has risen seven- or eightfold in Israel and Palestine in the past month as a result of the scorching summer, with some retailers charging up to 14 or 15 shekels (around £2.50).

“People are still buying tomatoes but they are buying fewer of them,” said one Jerusalem retailer. “I am hoping the price will drop soon.”

The Israeli government has waived taxes on imported tomatoes for the rest of the year to help counter shortages resulting from the unusual heat.

The exemption applies to 4,000 tonnes of the fruit, mainly from the Netherlands.

The crisis is easing as a new crop of tomatoes, grown after the intense heat of the summer, are coming on to the market, said an Israeli ministry of agriculture spokeswoman. “One of the problems has been that tomatoes don’t last long once ripe,” she said.

According to Gidon Bromberg of Friends of the Earth Middle East, “We’re seeing the impact of global warming. We can see real changes having to take place on how we grow food for our basic dietary needs.”

One of the things that I think is important to remember is that foods are not automatically interchangeable – consider how you’d feel if your bread or potatoes or rice were replaced with Cassava tomorrow and someone said “well, they are all nice, filling starches…”  People are passionate about their major foods, and it is worth noting the way that those disruptions undermine a sense of stability, even if there is enough overall food.

Sharon

9 Responses to “Another Reminder of the Food Crisis….”

  1. Jenn says:

    Margaret Mead famously said “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” While there are certainly situations in which diet has to be changed for survival, in general, these are really difficult changes for people, and certainly frustrating when the food is still there, but unavailable for reasons like suddenly increased cost. You’re absolutely right to point out the difficulties and while, yes, cassava would certainly be of benefit if nothing else were available, significant changes to diet – especially if considered to be a really important or fundamental form of culture – is hugely upsetting. I’m not looking forward to dealing with similar changes to our food supply, and the foods that we hold near and dear.

  2. aimee says:

    This reminds me of the recent cabbage shortage in Korea (don’t know if it has finally eased). The price of the preferred variety of cabbage for kim chee had risen more than threefold, and families were really feeling the hurt. Kim chee is the national food of Korea, a basic, a staple, and people truly feel deprived if they can’t eat it. If I remember right, the president of south korea went on TV eating a bowl of kim chee made with a different, cheaper variety of cabbage.

    When basic vegetables like tomatoes and cabbage are in shortage… well, I guess it’s better than a shortage of wheat or rice…. but not much. Save seeds!

  3. Gardenatrix says:

    It’s sort of dumb, but I feel this way about pasta.

    In my mind, the ‘normal’ price of a pound of pasta is a bit under a dollar, perhaps as low as $0.80. It was that way . . . well, for a very long time! And then suddenly, it seemed, about four years ago it spiked up.

    I can’t bring myself to pay $1.20 or $1.60 for something I should be able to make at home for pennies . . . and so I don’t. I eat rice, or tortillas, or bread – something that goes further for my food dollar. But I was raised by Italian matriarchs, and I miss eating it as much as I did.

    I know it’s dumb beyond all reason, but there it is.

  4. carol says:

    The cover of my local paper: food banks hit hard by mounting food insecurity of the entire middle section of my state (and thanks Sharon for introducing me to this term). Front page photo of people digging deep in a bin to stock shelves for food pantry. I turned around, bought $28 worth of peanut butter and canned chicken and beef and pears, and dropped it in the store’s collection bin (not located near or associated with the local paper), but will spent tonight buying seeds. Thankfully my aging mother was raised in the depression and has enough canned goods to last her (and the Australian army) through at least a decade. She has promised to bring it with her if the grid goes down and she comes to live with me. I may jest but there’s something to be said for having one’s food security, well, secure.

  5. Isis says:

    I’ve been treating tomatoes like an expensive delicacy for years now. Vegetables in general, but tomatoes especially. I do have a few pieces of fruit and/or vegetables (mostly apples) every day because, well, it’s healthy and it tastes good, and I do occasionally make a full blown vegetable dish to treat myself, but if I did that every day, I’d go broke pretty fast. Granted, this is partly due to the fact that I insist on eating organic. I concede that it’s possible that it would be healthier for me to incorporate more vegetables into my diet, even if they weren’t organic, but then, there’s also the question of sustainability plus the health of farm laborers to consider (I can’t imagine it would be very good for a person to spend all day long spraying pesticides onto somebody else’s vegetables).

  6. Steve says:

    For those concerned about food security that may not have acres & acres. Please understand & learn that 100 sq ft can provide 2 people w/fresh food. Do the research & implement. Does a body good! Steve

  7. Holly in Virginia says:

    I was raised a from-scratch cook, as were my young adult sons. We’ve always had a full pantry of home grown and sale bought foods, because its satisfying, and we’ve never had a ton of money. Now, of course, more than ever. I am hearing over and over about the crisis of people having no cooking skills, nothing in the pantry. How can this be true? When I found myself alone in the house of a well off cousin recently, I searched her kitchen for a box of cereal for breakfast and found nothing- no ubiquitous Cheerios, no cans or jars of anything, just serving dishes and a well stocked bar. Luckily there was a storebought quiche in the fridge. Food issues are not on her radar, she buys everything pre-prepared at the grocery as needed. We have a long way to go back to common sense and a modicum of food security.

  8. Saturday’s Dear Abby was actually a complaint from a husband that his wife’s home made meals (i.e from scratch) *cost too much*. He wanted her to quit cooking and just eat frozen pizza since the real food she prepared was “a waste of time and money”.

    I can’t even begin to imagine how someone could come up with that attitude … I mean, surely EVERYONE knows that home made food is better for you and usually (unless you are a really poor shopper) much less expensive than prepared foods!

    To be fair, I have heard that the situation in the US with prepared foods is different than it is here in Canada – i.e. that the ‘cheap junk food’ is actually quite a lot cheaper than proper good food. I haven’t found that to be the case here, so maybe it’s a cultural thing?

    I mean, when I was a starving student, I lived on baked potatoes and big bags of rice – frozen pizza was too expensive!

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