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Shortages Get Worse.

Posted on 22nd May 2022

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In the last few weeks there have been several news reports about shortages and price rises. It seems that these are things we will just have to get used to and adapt to.

War In Ukraine

The war in Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions against Russia, are already causing global shortages of several key foods, and of energy supplies, and the UN is warning that the war may cause a global food crisis, as reported here by the BBC. Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of wheat, maize, barley, rapeseed and sunflower oil (shortages of rapeseed and sunflower oil are already causing knock-on shortages of all cooking oils). Russia is also one of the world's largest exporters of fish (good luck buying caviar now!). Russia is a huge exporter of oil and gas, and Europe is struggling to rely less on Russian energy exports (and Russia has already cut off supplies of gas to Finland, to punish them for trying to join NATO, as reported here on NPR).

Here in Germany we are already seeing flour and cooking oil becoming harder to get. Energy prices are going up across the world. It seems likely that beer will eventually become more expensive (a very big deal for Germany!), as the shortage of barley starts to bite, and whisky prices are also likely to rise.

Climate Change

Global warming is also causing shortages, which must eventually lead to price rises. A recent example is described in this BBC report about a shortage of mustard, caused partly by climate change and partly by the war in Ukraine.

Over the last few years there have been many warnings that we could suffer from a worldwide coffee shortage, due to climate change. A recent article can be found here on Morgan Stanley.

Scientists are warning that the massive worldwide decline in insect populations (essential for crop pollination), caused by a mix of climate change and pesticides, will cause huge increases in food bills, as reported here on Euronews.

Economic Woes

Due to domestic economic issues, Indonesia has banned the export of palm oil, impacting global food prices, as reported here by Palm oil is used widely in Asia as cooking oil, and is added to many food products (see some of them in this list on The New Press). Palm oil is also used extensively in hygiene products such as soaps and shower gels.

Food Hygiene And Safety Issues

Recently there have been a number of food safety incidents and product recalls, including:

  • Chocolate, including Kinder Chocolate, as detailed in this report on Forbes;
  • Jiff Peanut Butter, as described here on NPR;
  • Baby Formula, as described here on the BBC , which is having a huge impact in the USA, where breastfeeding is relatively uncommon.
Other Issues

Real vanilla has been in short supply, gradually getting worse and pushing prices sky high, for several years, as described here by The Economist.

Changing Our Diet

This report on the BBC describes possible changes to what we eat, to adapt the the rapidly changing world. All this is in addition to a likely and essential shift to eating less meat (to save the planet and our health), and to eating less overall (to combat obesity, diabetes and heart disease).