Hot and hungry: Canada could be a food superpower

Forget the tar sands, says economist Jeff Rubin. Global warming means a longer growing season and new crops for Canada’s Praries. Plus, heat waves and water shortages are battering traditional food suppliers.

Rubin sees Canada’s future in two commodities the country can exploit as the planet warms: water and food. Exporting water is a touchy subject and the source of endless controversy, but Rubin says Canada can export a “value-added” form of water that’s far less touchy: Food, which, after all, requires water to grow…

“Maybe Harper is in denial about climate change, but [these companies are] in the Prairies explaining to farmers how to grow [US] corn,” Rubin says.

He says it won’t even take that much to become a food superpower — “climate change will do the heavily lifting.” He suggests Canada could go from being a top-ten global food producer to a top-three food producer in the coming years.

“Maybe Harper is in denial about climate change, but [these companies are] in the Prairies explaining to farmers how to grow corn,” Rubin says.

He says it won’t even take that much to become a food superpower — “climate change will do the heavily lifting.” He suggests Canada could go from being a top-ten global food producer to a top-three food producer in the coming years.

Canadian farming in a changing climate

Unusually wet 2014 in Canada; an unusually dry year in India. Lentils impacted:

A year after record deluges damaged the lentil crops in Canada, vegetarians across India are getting sticker shock for legumes they eat at almost every meal.

Stockpiles in Canada, the world’s biggest exporter, are down by half from a year earlier, government data show. At the same time, shipments to India, the top buyer, are headed to an all-time high after a dry spell reduced its domestic output. That’s boosted prices for all kinds of similar crops, including chickpeas and dried beans.

“We’re going to be sold out this year,” with supply remaining tight at least until the Canadian harvest starts in August, said Murad Al-Katib, chief executive officer of Regina, Saskatchewan-based AGT Food & Ingredients Inc., the largest processor and exporter of dried peas and lentils.

Quinoa commentaries and the food and climate crises

Dave Burdick responds to a misleading article in the Guardian about global demand for quinoa and its impact on Bolivia and Peru, where the seed originated and is mostly grown. Quinoa producers are eating less of the food and the revered and nutritious seed has become more costly.

As Burdick notes, the author of the Guardian commentary selectively blames vegans and vegetarians for an array of ills, including rising quinoa prices and deforestation in Andean states, while overlooking the geopolitical pressures that are changing our global diet and quinoa-exporting countries like Bolivia. Plus, Bolivians made more prosperous by increasing exports are diversifying their diets to include more meat and industrial food, like many people elsewhere.

As Buridck notes:

This is an example of widespread “ethical” eating decisions—if that’s what we’re attributing it to—having a real effect on global production. That is to say: So many people are eating a healthy food that they are driving up the demand for it, which means more people will grow it and make a living off of selling it and it will become more common and so more people will eat it.

The Guardian previously published a report on quinoa demand that appeared a few days prior to the commentary. It provides context that’s missing from the bizarre slam against vegans and vegetarians.

And since 2013 is the International Year of Quinoa, expect to hear much more about the seed this year – and maybe for much longer. Several prominent voices have promoted quinoa as a response to our worsening global food crisis.

Says Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano da Silva: "As we face the challenge of feeding the world population in a context of climate change, quinoa offers an alternative for those countries suffering from food insecurity.”

Save Canada’s freshwater: Trade beef for beans

Hans Schrier, professor emeritus at UBC’s faculty of land and food systems interviewed by the Georgia Straight:

[One of Canada’s] most appealing exports, beef… should be a nonstarter in a world where 70 percent of all freshwater resources are already used for food production.

“Beef is attractive from an economic point of view.…[But water use for] beef is at least double to 10 times as high as for any other crop”…

Peas and beans, Schreier said, would be good candidates for future farming initiatives in this country. “Just avoid water-intensive crops.”

I enjoy eating pulses like chickpeas, lentils and beans. They are delicious, nutritious and their production and export as a low-impact, renewable commodity will help safely steady Canada’s economy.

Pulses are already a significant part of Canada’s economy. According to Agriculture Canada: “Canada is considered the world’s top producer of dry peas, the second largest producer of lentils, and one of the top ten producers of chickpeas and dry beans.”

Link

Jeremy Grantham, the hedge fund manager who’s urging scientists to speak more bravely about global warming, recently wrote an analysis of the long-term global food crisis we’re now in.

It is a chilling but important analysis, rightly titled, “Welcome to Dystopia“.

Joe Romm summarizes Grantham’s report:

We are five years into a severe global food crisis that is very unlikely to go away. It will threaten poor countries with increased malnutrition and starvation and even collapse. Resource squabbles and waves of food-induced migration will threaten global stability and global growth. This threat is badly underestimated by almost everybody and all institutions with the possible exception of some military establishments.