Rice hits record highs

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by nbs2, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. nbs2 macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #1
    On its face it should be in Current Events, but let's be honest - we know where this is going to end up belonging.

    Anyway, it appears that rice has now joined corn, wheat, and vegetable oil in reaching record highs and putting staples further out of the reach of those who most rely on them. After reading the stories of the mild unrest in Mexico as corn skyrocketed and watching news stories on the small shopkeeps losing their businesses when veg oil hit highs, I expect that this will have the broadest global impact.

    I wonder if we might be better served by a three pronged attack:
    1) Reducing ethanol production in favor of other alternative fuels. This major contributor to the rising cost of corn has pushed more people to rice.
    2) Introducing tapioca as a cost effective staple (even though the flavor is not as delicious). This may be the most difficult as cultural identities and cuisines are so ingrained with rice, it would take generations (and we don't have that much time) to make a cost-effective transition.
    3) Get the developed world to stop crying about GMO. Having seen firsthand the several tons of rice crops lost to rain or simply a dike failure, developing more water resistant rice strains or other variations that could benefit thousands seems like an obvious idea. That there are so many opposed to development of those strains seem no different than who refuse to take their children to the doctor because they want to rely on ancient tradition to heal them.
     
  2. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #2
    I am waiting how long until bush is blamed.


    As for you list I say 1.) is the way to go. ethanol is well crap/ It could be burning more oil than it takes to make it. ethanol from corn takes almost as much energy to produce as we get a return on it. I believe E85 after you do the conversions on adjusted teh BTU still takes MORE oil per mile than straight 100% normal gas. E90 the same way. But this is not going to change. To much money is involved.

    As for rice there are a lot of factors jacking up the price. There is a huge shortage right now because of huge crop losses in asia. Some suppliers are hording there stock hoping prices will go higher then sell. This is reall a good thing because when supplies get even tighter there still will at least be supplies.

    Transporting everything cost more money now as well.
     
  3. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #3
    The first thing to do is to stop the massive subsidies for ethanol production, which are starving millions in the third world just so that politicians can be seen to be "reducing reliance on foreign oil" and buy political support at the same time. It's obscene.
    http://zfacts.com/p/63.html
     
  4. Hawkeye411 macrumors 68000

    Hawkeye411

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    #4
    I wouldn't blame Bush by himself. It is the result of oil hungry americans in general and the need to find alternative fuels. Unfortunately the USA has chosen to support ethanol production which has led to a general increase in the cost of food. This is especially true for crops that used to be grown in the fields that are now full of corn (e.g. wheat). The price of flour has gone up which leads to an increase in the price of items like bread and pasta. It places like Italy, many people can no longer afford to purchase pasta so they switch to things like rice which increases the demand and the prices increase. Of course, there are certainly other factors leading to the recent increase in the price of rice. However, americas thirst for fuel is definitely one of the major causes.
     
  5. tMac85 macrumors 65816

    tMac85

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    #5
    i try not to think about it...

    but what HASN'T hit record highs....

    we all got one foot in the grave...
     
  6. nick9191 macrumors 68040

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    #6
    Prices keep going up. Us in the UK are going into the biggest recession since Thatcher apparently. So are the US.

    I just don't watch the news, when I do I feel depressed, so I never watch it :)
     
  7. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #7
    Italy is one of the richest countries in the world. I doubt they'll be having a problem with food prices.

    I can still buy 1kg of Pasta in Sainsbury's online store for £1. For rice I pay £0.57 for 1kg of rice.

    Even at those prices I'm only paying 10¢/serving for rice, and 20¢/serving for pasta, which isn't a great amount of money for people living in the developed world (and many people in the developing world too) , especially compared to the price of other vegetables and especially meat.

    Of course sadly some of the people on the margins will be affected, those countries that produce enough food for themselves and export food will in fact do better than before.
     
  8. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #8
    Ethanol is a huge disaster. Unfortunately, the corn lobby is huge in the US so we won't see any cutbacks anytime soon.

    As far as GM foods are concerned, there are already problems with them. The vitamin A rice was a total flop, round up ready wheat has simply produced super weeds and in general, we're seeing too little testing of what could be a major biological disaster.

    All across SE Asia, farmland and rice paddies are being converted to housing to meet the needs of uncontrolled population growth.

    USAID's policies over the years have in a small way helped destroy local food production but the US really can't be blamed for the current global disaster.

    The blame truly lies with uncontrolled population growth in the 3rd world. Global climate change also plays a significant role.
     
  9. nbs2 thread starter macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #9
    I am impressed that the entire forum seems to agree on the issue of ethanol. It makes me wonder who, outside of the corn lobby, really supports it.

    As for the GM problems - yes, there have been growing pains, but wouldn't it better to continue to progress and try and improve the science, rather than give up the idea as a failure because of early difficulties? Rice that can better survive flooding would be a boon to many of the developing world, as they also seem to be plagued by flooding and the costs of flooding at a higher rate than the developed. For example, I imagine that the GDP of Bangladesh would increase exponentially, raising standards of living and reducing hunger and starvation.
     
  10. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #10
    GM seeds are more expensive, cannot be saved from year to year and can only be purchased from western multinationals. The high rates of suicide amongst Indian farmers is in part due to this gross injustice. GM seeds have NOT provided any sustainable benefit to third world farmers. GM seeds are only beneficial to corporate farmers with access to capital.

    We've had 20 years of Monsanto extolling the potential benefits yet haven't seen any. Perhaps it's time to realize that the third world won't benefit and instead emphasize better land use practices and most importantly, responsible family planning.
     
  11. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #11

    Well ethanol plants. But really idiots who know nothing thinking it is saving the planet.

    It drives me nuts how many people want there cake and eat it to. With out having to do anything for it.
     
  12. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

    DakotaGuy

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    #12
    Well I can tell you my view is completely different then everyone else on this topic. I do drive an E85 vehicle and although I can only find it at a few stations when I do I fill up. Sure there is a loss in fuel economy, but it is not as bad as anti-ethanol people try to say. Also, it emits fewer emissions and generally costs me around 70 cents a gallon less then unleaded gasoline. I don't think that ethanol is the answer, but it is a small part of a larger answer. Before you completely dismiss ethanol as the worse idea on the face of the earth you should spend some time educating yourself.

    http://www.e85fuel.com/index.php

    This quote comes directly from that informative website...

    "Does it take more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy we get out of it?

    Response:

    No. This has been a common misconception of the ethanol industry, that it takes more energy to make ethanol than is available to the final consumer. Remember, ethanol is produced from plant matter, today dominated by corn, wheat, potatoes, sorgum, etc. Plants grow through the use of energy provided by the sun and are a renewable resources. In the future, ethanol will be produced from waste products or "energy crops." In fact, a partner of the NEVC, BC International (BCI), is currently constructing an ethanol production plant in Louisiana that will use sugar cane waste to produce ethanol. Additionally, BCI is considering the establishment of ethanol production facilities in California that would use the waste hulls from rice growers and wood waste from the forrest industry to produce ethanol. Energy crops such as perennial switch grasses, timothy, and other high-output/low-input crops will be used in the future.

    Current research prepared by Argonne National Laboratory (a U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory), indicates a 38% gain in the overall energy input/output equation for the corn-to-ethanol process. That is, if 100 BTUs of energy is used to plant corn, harvest the crop, transport it, etc., 138 BTUs of energy is available in the fuel ethanol. Corn yields and processing technologies have improved significantly over the past 20 years and they continue to do so, making ethanol production less and less energy intensive."

    So there is a 38% gain in energy. There are other crops that can be used as well. It doesn't just have to be corn.

    The big oil companies would love for you to believe that ethanol causes a loss in the input/output equation. They don't want you filling you car up with anything except their middle eastern fossil fuel. Ever wonder where a lot of the anti-ethanol propaganda comes from? Take a wild guess.

    The last thing is that I grew up on a family farm. We almost went broke back in the 1980's. Grain prices have been crap for years and years and people just took it for granted. We were selling wheat in the 1990's for the same price my grandfather sold it for in the 1940's. Production went up with better equipment and more acres, however not enough to sustain a family farming operation. We later rented the land out to a family corporation who farmed thousands and thousands of acres. We still own the land and someday I might actually go back and do some farming if the prices remain high. People have just taken cheap grain prices for granted. I know what it is like to be flat broke and see all the farms being sold to corporations. It is a nice break for my family and neighbors to actually get a good price for their product. It might actually encourage young people like myself to get back into agriculture.

    My view may be narrow and self-centered, but as an ag land owner and a person who is paid by farmers (the majority of tax payers in my district) I am glad to see a better price for grain.
     
  13. nbs2 thread starter macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #13
    Sort of. The high suicide rate has more to do with the taking out of loans by the farmers and then the failure to make payments on those loans. The recent rash of suicides led to the current bailout plan being pushed through the Indian government. Of course, there were more than a few farmers that killed themselves because the planned cutoff was smaller than their lots. Now, it has been a couple of weeks since I was on the ground in India, so details may have changed, but I doubt it.

    The bigger concern among farmers in India is whether it is even worth making payments on loans, or should loans be taken out with the expectation that the government will bail them out again in the future.

    As for the sustainability of GM seeds, perhaps it would be in the interest of the governments to take steps to bolster their food production. Flood prone farms would be better served in each year purchasing seeds that will yield than losing their "organic" crops. Malnutrition leads to enough diseases that encouraging and developing a generic seed industry would be no different than the pharm industries that they are already cultivating.

    Improving practices would help, but how much improvement can you expect to see when the cost of farm machinery is outside the reach of most farmers. Most third world farmers are still relying animal driven plows and hand harvesting. Asking them to have less kids means asking them to hire farmhands. It's cheaper to feed a kid than it is to pay someone else. Plus, you can get your sons to take care of you when you are old. To make effective change, teaching isn't going to be enough - some investment of capital (from where, I don't know) is going to be needed.

    You bring up some excellent points - especially about the situation of family farmers in the US. But, as food costs begin to exceed the budget of more and more of the world's population, wouldn't it make sense for the government to cease propping prices even higher? In developed countries, where education has taken place, wouldn't it be better to not pay farmers for conservation and land retirement programs and rely on their understanding that a couple years of feast will lead to long term famine?

    Sure, it is important for farmers to earn a living wage - they are the strength of just about every economy in the world. But, with the unaffordably artificially increased prices, instability approaches. With the encouragement of ethanol production, we get something that makes people "feel good" without providing any overall benefit. Sure, the oil industry doesn't like ethanol - but why should I rely on ethanol propaganda to tell me what to think of oil?
     
  14. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #14
    But the oil needed to fertilize them and harvest them is NOT renewable. Much less the fact that water will in the next 50 years be an even more expensive commodity. Especially in the plains states like South Dakota.

    Ethanol was seen as a quick fix to low grain prices and that's fine. However, since it is federally subsidized and food prices are rising as a direct result, ethanol is a zero sum game for the majority of Americans.
     
  15. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

    DakotaGuy

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    #15
    Well we could shut down all the ethanol plants, however then away goes any sort of alternative fuel program in this country and we are back to square one. I assume you feel the same way about BioDiesel. The person that started this thread said that we should consider using other alternative fuel. What exactly is ready to be implemented today or even in the next 5 years? Also, one must consider that all gasoline powered cars can run on a 10% blend of Ethanol. It will take years and years to get the entire world automotive fleet switched over to some new energy standard. Hydrogen is one that is mentioned often, but at this point it is no more then vaporware. It would take years. I have said all along that ethanol is NOT the long term solution, however it can be a small part of the long term solution.

    So if we get rid of ethanol then we go back to a 100% fossil fuel solution for the next decade or longer. I think in some parts of the country ethanol is a better solution then other parts. Take South Dakota for example. The corn is raised here, the ethanol is produced here and a lot of it is used right here. It is fairly efficient. If you have a farmer who is willing to use BioDiesel in his equipment then you start to get a much better return on the energy gained ratio.

    It seems easy to blame ethanol for the grain shortage in the world right now, however there are other causes that are probably effecting it much more then ethanol production. Drought is a big one and the other issue that will soon be knocking on the door is overpopulation. I hate to be the evil person that has to say it, but in some areas of the world people are multiplying too fast. It has to slow down or it is going to be impossible to feed everyone.

    There are other smaller things that could be done to help with prices. One example is the fact that I own 160 acres. Right now the land is in the Conservation Reserve Program. The US Government pays me to leave the land in grass for wildlife and soil conservation. I am locked in a contract that would cost me to break, however if they would break it without penalty I'd be happy to rent it to a local farmer and get a nice wheat crop growing on it. Corn or soybeans don't grow very well in Western SD where I own the land. That land will raise 40 bushel an acre wheat without any problems. You end up with 6,400 bushels of wheat or 422,400 loaves of bread just off of 160 acres.

    If the US Government would start to cancel the Conservation programs they could put thousands upon thousands of acres of cropland back into production.

    I agree some of the grain prices have went insane, however you can assume that farmers should get 1940's prices today. Like I said before a lot of people who have never worked the land for a living don't really understand the farming business. It's a great life, however a lot of work for little money.
     
  16. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

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    #16
    big problem with ethonal is you also have to factor in transporation cost. As it stands we can not used our current piping network because ethonal absorbs water and causes the pipes to coraded. So that means we have to truck it everywhere. I think in most of the country ethonal is a net loss of fossil fuels instead of helping reduce to problem it increases it. We should back down on goverment subsedest.

    personally I like some other research going on that blows ethonl out of the water. it is taking genticaly engineering bacterical that will produce gas. Just supply them with sugar and out comes gas for our cars. No loss in BTU power.
     
  17. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #17
    California is NOT a corn producing state so why should ethanol be trucked over the Rocky Mountains just to satisfy a few corn growers in Iowa? I'm sure there must be suitable biomass for ethanol in CA.

    The best solutions to the energy crisis are undoubtedly local and should be kept that way.

    As far as CRP is concerned, the only way to ensure conservation is through a long term commitment. Obviously you're more worried about short term profit than the long term. Farming is a business like any other.
     
  18. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

    DakotaGuy

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    #18
    That is exactly my point that ethanol only makes sense in certain regions of the country.

    My point on the CRP was the fact that people are complaining there is not enough supply and prices are too high. A solution would be to release those acres back into production. I understand that conservation is a long term commitment. I have spent plenty of hours planting shelter belts and doing other conservation improvements to understand that.
     
  19. Iscariot macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    #19
    4) Curbing meat consumption will greatly increase crop availability for human consumption
     
  20. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #20
    And reduce the number of farting cattle clogging up the atmosphere, too.
     
  21. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #21
    Come on now. This is exactly the type of thing you got on me about. ;) There's a lot of blame to go around.

    And no, ethanol isn't the end all be all. It's still new, and may never be useful. But we should still research alternative fuels. We're going to have to sooner or later. And it's all Bush's fault. :p
     
  22. nbs2 thread starter macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #22
    It is my understanding that the grain delivered to animals is considered to be outside the specs of that for human consumption. But, I could be (and probably am) wrong.

    The Honda FCX is in testing stages, full scale deployment within the next 10 years. I imagine that if more attention and development time was spent on hydrogen than on ethanol, it would be deployed within the next 5 years.

    Wouldn't it be better to use a hybrids-only model until hydrogen can be developed? It seems extremely cost inefficient to build a broad infrastructure for a technology that will be outdated very soon.

    Perhaps, but even if population levels remain level in those nations, hunger will not be alleviated.

    I think that the point he was making is that releasing the land would be a solution - not that it is the best or even a practical one. With the education that developed nation farmers have, they have to understand that it is in their interest to utilize methods that may inhibit short term profits for long term development. The government should not be paying farmers to do something that would maximize profit - it should be something they decide on their own.
     
  23. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

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    #23
    I'm all in favor of alternative fuels, but hydrogen is no panacea. Where do you propose to get the energy to make hydrogen?
     
  24. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #24
    In 1969 during a tour of the Californaia Acqueduct, I was told that most of the corn I saw was for ensilage for dairy farms and feed lots. Grown thickly--not as a row crop--to avoid wind damge, it's harvested before the ears mature, ground, and then fed to cattle. This was in the general area of Stockton, CA.

    I haven't kept up with farming practices in the Central Valley, but so long as there's plenty of snow up above Oroville, you can grow all manner of crops from the irrigation projects...
     
  25. blackfox macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #25
    As a contribution to the tangent on alternative fuels - I find the prospect of Algae fuel interesting - as it can be produced in non-arable land (and elsewhere).

    That said, I don't know how far along it is as a viable real-world alternative.

    I am also a fan of various types of biodiesel - although only as a local solution (which is a significant start).
     

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