Food Security & Shortages
Coincidences or pointing in the direction of what's to come?
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I wrote a piece in early March about how lockdowns were the trigger for food price increases. The invasion of Ukraine only exacerbated the situation which will potentially mean a horrible few years (or more) in terms of food prices and shortages.
“Russia and Ukraine are some of the biggest producers in agriculture and food globally. They supply almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley exports, 20 percent of maize and almost 80% of sunflower oil.
Not only will food exports be affected but Russia also produces enormous amounts of nutrients, like potash and phosphate, key ingredients in fertilisers, which enable plants and crops to grow. One quarter of key nutrients used in European food production come from Russia.”
So it would make logical sense to prioritise food security. However, some strange things have been going on, both in recent months and over the last few years, which don’t suggest food security is top of our governments’ concerns.
Meet Farmer Bill. Mr Gates now owns more farmland than anyone else in America and he keeps buying more and more on the quiet.
“After AgCoA, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board acquired a second tranche of farmland assets when it paid $2.5 billion for a 40% stake in Glencore Agricultural Products in 2016. The very next year, however, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board began shedding these very same farmland assets as quickly as it had acquired them.
And it did this so quietly one might even say it was done in secret.
There was no public announcement, and no notice in the business press. Instead, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board revealed in the fine print of a quarterly statement that it had sold $520 million in U.S. farmland assets held by Agriculture Company of America. Credit Chris Janiec at Agri Investor for this eagle-eyed investigating. The Americas Editor at Agri Investor, Janiec reported that the assets had been offered as a single block and “that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is thought to be the buyer of CPPIB’s farmland.” Janiec stayed on the story, and the following year, he confirmed the parameters of sale when he reported the addition of 61 properties valued at approximately $500 million to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries’ (NCREIF) U.S. Farmland Index. This half-billion-dollar figure corroborated the AgCoA acquisition, and the paper trail led directly to Cascade Investment LLC.”
In 2021 he reportedly owned 268,984 acres of land.
At the same time as farmland is being bought up, food processing facilities have been catching on fire. Obviously, industrial accidents happen all the time but there have been 16 devastating fires this year already.
Locations of food processing plants destroyed.
According to one comment I read, there are 36,486 food and beverage processing plants in the US so you would expect ~9 fires per year. Therefore, this may be a ‘nothingburger’ but a trend to keep an eye on for now anyway.
And whilst maintaining food security is more important than ever right now, the British government is encouraging farmers to sell their land.
The New Economics Foundation had a look at this in a recent article.
“Local authorities own around 1.3m acres of land in England – around 4%. Currently 44 councils in England own farms, which make up around 16% of all the land owned by councils. Known as ‘county farms’, these cover over 200,000 acres – a vast tract of public land which has the potential to support the economic viability of local farming, promote innovative farming methods and deliver environmentally sustainable farming for the public good.
However, as a result of government policy of selling off public land to raise revenue, these farms are being lost from public ownership. The size of England’s county farms estate dropped by over 15,000 acres between 2010 and 2018. Losses from 2016 to 2019 make up 70% of the fall since 2010, and at the current rate of loss, English county farms will disappear in little over 40 years.
County farms are being sold at an increasing rate in part due to a long-standing ideological neoliberal bias in the government, which assumes that market forces will deliver more efficient outcomes than managing land in public ownership. In part the county farm sell-off is due to the impacts of austerity on local authorities, who have few other options to raise money to fund public services.”
As the article points out, in the 11th century, approximately 1% of the population owned 70% of the land. Now, less than 1% owns 50% of the land and it’s only getting worse. With land comes power and once transferred into private ownership it is extremely difficult for the public to buy it back.
If we are not careful we will quickly return to a form of serfdom where we the peasants will own nothing and have no prospects of owning anything. Land will be too expensive or just not for sale.
However, maybe you will own nothing but be happy. According to many historians, the average peasant had between one third to half the year off from work. I would still trade in my free time for freedom but would you?
Furthermore, governments should be ensuring food security is a top priority, not selling off land to pay off their coronavirus debts. It is more important than ever that a country can provide for its own people. Concentrating the means of feeding people into the hands of a few wealthy globalists, whose main motivation is power and profit, does not seem to be the most wise medium-to-long-term food security solution.
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