Across the world, experts and analysts are now warning of skyrocketing food prices and catastrophic food shortages. In mid-May 2022, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said the world is facing years of famine, and urged Russia to “permit the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports” to ease shortages.1,2
Blame for this global food shortage is, officially, being laid at the feet of “climate change,” the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.3 But while all of those have played their role, other factors are also contributing to bring our food system to the breaking point.
For example, between January 2021 and April 2022, at least 20 food processing facilities have gone up in flames,4 and a string of barn fires has also impacted farmers.5,6 While most of these fires have been blamed on equipment or safety failures, and fact checkers insist fires are common in these kinds of facilities, there were only two such fires in 2019, and at least some of the barn fires at the end of 2021 were suspected arson.
In 2020, wildfires also destroyed a number of farms,7 and in in early 2022, bird flu outbreaks among poultry resulted in the culling of millions of chickens, ducks and turkey.8
In March 2021, a massive container ship became wedged across the Suez Canal in Egypt — blocking “an artery of world trade,” triggering a rise in oil prices and leading to fallout that affected shipping around the globe.9
More recently, there was the U.S. infant formula shortage, precipitated by the Food and Drug Administration shutting down one of the manufacturing facilities that is part of the U.S. formula monopoly.
Russia is also withholding fertilizer exports10 in response to the EU’s decision to ban seven of the nine Russian banks from the SWIFT system,11 and anyone who wants to buy Russian oil or gas has to pay in Rubles.12
On top of the fertilizer shortage and subsequent price increase triggered by Russia’s ban on exports, Union Pacific (a key investor in which is BlackRock) is also restricting fertilizer shipments by train, causing shipment delays and higher prices.13 A Canadian Pacific freight train carrying potash (a key fertilizer ingredient) also recently derailed in Alberta, Canada.14
President Biden’s decision to transition the United States away from energy independency by shutting down the Keystone pipeline,15 canceling offshore oil leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico,16 and freezing new leases and permits for federal oil and gas drilling17 doesn’t help either.
We need fuel to farm and to ship food and fertilizer, so rising prices at the pump automatically result in higher outlays for farmers and higher food prices. It also doesn’t help or make sense for the U.S. and U.K. to continue paying farmers to not farm or grow less when a global famine is looming.18 And, let’s not forget the elephant in the room — out of control money printing — which is the real cause of inf…