Food challenges - good news for NZ?

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Nime's picture
Nime
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Food challenges - good news for NZ?

Just read an article entitled "Food will never be so cheap again" http://adjix.com/n78n - this is of course not the first article about the trend for food products to become more expensive as shortages develop. Now, is this great news for New Zealand? I think so - the country is agricultural, could feed itself and has huge surplus to export. So it should flourish - but will be able to if peak oil strikes as well?

Any thoughts?

Ed Archer's picture
Ed Archer
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?

That depends on how much fertilizer they use from oil based products AND if they have any local alternatives to hand.

Amanda V's picture
Amanda V
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?

Nime.  Peak oil will outweigh all advantages of being a food producing nation.  The world is going to become a local food producing community.  A lot of our food will come from our back yards ! 

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NZSailor
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?

I think New Zealand does have some things going for it.  It is a net exporter of beef, lamb and milk products and while the production would be effected by peak oil I think less so than production of these products in North America.  I was told once that for NZ lamb and beef to be commercially competetive, we (NZ'ers) need to be able to grow, slaughter, process and transport our meat to American supermarkets as inexpensivly as an American farm can do the same.  That's quite a challenge given our distance from the market.  Growing up in dairy country on the east coast of America I saw my neigboring farmers work hard all summer with big barns, using big tractors and fertilizers to plant, harvest and store corn and hay to feed their cows through the long winters.  Now living in New Zealand on a small farm and rasing sheep and beef cattle we have animals that are in grass pasture all year round with no barns, and no harvested hay or corn (admitedly we are not dairy farmers) and no growth hormones.  When our beef cattle are ready for market they get on a truck and go straight to the slaughterhouse, not to a grain fed feedlot in the mid-west.  Again, while being only small farmers, the only equipment we have is a quad bike with a trailer hitch... and we only use that when we need to haul fencing etc... around the farm.  While peak oil will make a huge difference to the long distance transport of food I would say our food production process is less dependent on oil than the North American process.  As Amanda says, we will all be growing more of our own food soon but it has to be a plus to live in a place with a moderate climate that has so few people and so much excess food production.

I am reminded of all the books Nevil Shute wrote about the period after WWII in the UK... petrol, butter and meat were rationed and other shortages were common and it sounded pretty bleak.  The slightly bewildered farmers of New Zealand and Australia were very well off as shipload after shipload of meat, dairy and wool went to overcrowded and underfed markets in the UK and Europe.  I wonder if that may be the case again someday.

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Amanda V
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?
NZSailor wrote:

I am reminded of all the books Nevil Shute wrote about the period after WWII in the UK... petrol, butter and meat were rationed and other shortages were common and it sounded pretty bleak.  The slightly bewildered farmers of New Zealand and Australia were very well off as shipload after shipload of meat, dairy and wool went to overcrowded and underfed markets in the UK and Europe.  I wonder if that may be the case again someday.

Well NZSailor, I wonder if you should invest in a sail boat to take it over !!!

NZSailor's picture
NZSailor
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?

Hi Amanda,

Yes, we considered selling the farm and getting a big boat (we came to NZ by sailboat so it wouldn't take very much to get us on the high seas again).  A purpose built sail/cargo ship would be an interesting project.  My concern is that if things get ugly, and there is sure to be an ugly phase at some point, piracy will be an issue for boats and seaside communities.  There are a lot of small to medium sized naval ships from many countries capable of long distance travel and armed to the teeth and I would be concerned about modern day vikings/mercenaries stripping communities of food and technology of value.  I would think there will be less rule of law and more "whose got the biggest gun" mentality.  Do you get a wind generator and lots of solar panels only to become a target when those items are of infinitely more value than today?  It all depends on that decent... smooth or bumpy.

 

Amanda V's picture
Amanda V
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?

Hi NZSailor.  I was being a wee bit tongue in cheek with the sailing thing.  But good for you that you have the skills of sailing and the option of going down that road.  Skills are something nobody can steel off you.  I would get more skills if I had the time !

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sofistek
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Re: Food challenges - good news for NZ?
Nime wrote:

Just read an article entitled "Food will never be so cheap again" http://adjix.com/n78n - this is of course not the first article about the trend for food products to become more expensive as shortages develop. Now, is this great news for New Zealand? I think so - the country is agricultural, could feed itself and has huge surplus to export. So it should flourish - but will be able to if peak oil strikes as well?

Any thoughts?

Yes. As finite resources dwindle and climate change starts to bite, localisation will be the order of the day. New Zealand is in a good potential position to at least feed itself but dismiss thoughts of making a fast buck from feeding other nations. Global commerce will cease.

Hopefully, other nations will not try to annexe our farms.

As for feeding ourselves, even in New Zealand, we depend on fossil fuels for our food production, far more energy goes into it than we get out. That will have to stop and we have to start building our soils again. So, even though we have the potential to feed ourselves, we still have to make the transition from fossil fuel powered farming to sustainable farming practices. That will be painful, and resisted all the way.

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