The end of abundance is here. First, it was oil, now with an "increase in maize, wheat and soya bean prices -- the third spike in the past five years -- suggests the era of cheap food is also over." Maybe we need to start handing out condoms for free and legalise abortion.
If the World Bank's projections are anything like accurate, further massive productivity gains from agriculture are going to be needed over the next two decades. There will be an extra 70m mouths to feed every year, which will result in a 50% increase in demand for food by 2030. Meanwhile, the amount of arable land per person will continue its long-run downward trend.
The extent of this challenge has been highlighted by the extreme drought in the US this year. Failure of the maize harvest -- down by more than 100m tonnes on what was expected -- has had a knock-on impact on wheat, which has not been affected by the lack of rain. Prices of both crops have jumped by $100 a tonne this summer. The latest data from the World Bank showed that food prices rose 10% between June and July and have now exceeded the previous peak in early 2011.
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