Monday, April 28, 2014

Food Prices set to Rise

The price of food goes up as a result of normal inflation, we all know that. But you might have noticed recently that food prices are going up faster than inflation. What is causing this? Several things.

1. Bananas
Fungus Causing Banana Emergency
A fungal disease, Fusarium oxysporum, is well on its way to wiping out the world’s supply of Cavendish bananas – the world’s most popular banana. With no widespread remedies to the naturally occurring fungus available, the prospects are dire to contain the disease from destroying the fourth-largest agricultural product on Earth. The news is reminiscent of the devastation wrought by the same fungus six decades ago against the Gros Michel banana – previously the world’s bestselling banana. The Cavendish replaced the Gros Michel due to their similar tastes, and because of greater disease resistance. Currently, there are no replacement bananas available to fill in for the Cavendish, thus if the Cavendish goes the way of the Gros Michel, bananas could be nothing more than a sweet memory. Banana prices continue to inch nearer to their record highs from March 2012.

2.  Beef
Beef… It May NOT Be What’s for Dinner Anymore
The western drought continues to affect commodity prices, as ranchers send their herds to slaughter in increasing numbers due to the lack of available water. The number of cattle in the United States currently stands at less than 88 million. That’s the lowest level since 1951 – when the population of the United States was 154 million (about half the size of today). As the record drought continues, beef prices could rise 7% to 8% in 2014, and roughly the same amount in 2015. Ground beef may see especially steep price hikes, upwards 10% to 15% this year alone. All of this means consumers will experience food inflation not seen in decades.

3. Pork
 US pork prices rise 10% after virus kills millions of piglets
A virus never before seen in the US has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it's threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10% or more. Estimates vary, but one economist believes case data indicate more than 6m piglets in 27 states have died since porcine epidemic diarrhea showed up in the US last May. A more conservative estimate from the US Department of Agriculture shows the nation's pig herd has shrunk at least 3% to about 63m pigs since the disease appeared. The US is both a top producer and exporter of pork, but production could decline about 7% this year compared to last – the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries. Already, prices have shot up: a pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13% more than a year ago, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ham and chops have gone up too, although not as much.

4. Corn
Corn is used for so many products and American farmers grow a lot of it. But with  millions of bushels diverted to produce ethanol, a feel good but misguided attempt to lower petroleum imports, the price has recently hit $5.00 a bushel. That is not the peak price but it certainly raises the price of farm animals that are few corn (which is everything). High priced corn raises the price of poultry, pork, and beef. Since the beginning of the year, corn prices have gone up 22%.

Chicken: Poultry prices increased 4.7 percent last year, the Department of Agriculture says, but 2014 is shaping up as one of the most-profitable years ever for chicken producers, as consumers switch from beef and pork. The government projects that Americans will eat the most chicken in three years. The law of "Supply and Demand" dictates that with more demand for chicken and other poultry the prices will go up. The high price of feed corn will inflate prices as well.

Fruits and Vegetables
The ongoing California drought has caused crop shortages that are only expected to worsen. The combination of disease and an unusually cold winter has damaged citrus crops across the Sun Belt. A month ago, you could buy fresh limes at grocery stores priced three for a dollar. But this week, non-organic limes were selling for 79 cents apiece at Safeway stores, and 98 cents each at Fred Meyer. That sudden price spike is the result of a drought has decimated the lime crop in Mexico, where almost all of the limes that are sold in the U.S. come from. The ongoing drought in California could bump up the price for a head of lettuce by 34 percent, to roughly $2.44. Avocados could go up 28 percent, to $1.60 each.
Average increases vs. 1 year ago:

  • Chicken:  5%
  • Grapefruit:  6%
  • Wine 8%
  • Beef:  8%
  • Turkey 9%
  • Bacon: 13%
  • Oranges:  23%

These facts make it all the more important for you to develop alternate means to secure food for you and your family. If you page back through this Blog you can find information on gaining food security through:

1. Hunting
2. Fishing
3. Foraging
4. Gardening

This is the time of year for picking and eating Dandelion. Get out and pick and eat this super food.
Click on the Dandelion link above to see that posting again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Look - 2014 Garden

This year I will attempt to document my garden a little better than I have been able to in the past. I have a lot of pre-retirement activities and then I will be looking for a job so I cannot promise I will be successful, but I will try.

If you have been following my posts you know that I have a garden that is about 12'x30'.  I have been amending the soil with compost and tons of mulch over the past ten years or so. It is very fertile and loose but soil needs continuous work to maintain. This past fall I laid down about nine inches of mulched green grass and leaves over my garden. It was so bitter cold this winter that very little of it has decomposed so I won't till it in this spring. I think I will leave it in place as a weed barrier mulch. This will be a first for me so I am interested in how it works out. (You can see the mulch in the below pictures.)

One of the first chores I do, generally in February or early March, is to cut out the old canes in my raspberry patch. This year I was late, just getting to it in mid-April, because I had foot surgery and couldn't walk for two months. Anyway, with the late, cold winter April was not too late. It is not a hard job. I wear gloves and try not to get too scratched as I cut out the old, dead canes. I also tuck any canes back behind the wire so the grass path is kept clear.


If I had to guess I would say that I remove just less than half of the canes in the bed. This opens up the bed so that the live canes are uncrowded and get more sun. I also pull any weeds that are started so I have a clean, tidy patch. I usually run all this through my chipper/shredder but this year I burned the canes.

The next task was to prune and thin my blueberry bushes. Last year the blueberries were out of control. The bushes were too crowded and needed a good thinning. I have always gone by the rule of never trimming more than one third of the mass of a tree or bush so this year I cut out about that much. I wanted to open up the inside of the bushes to get more sun and air and I also need to trim them back to the confines of the raised bed. I have to put bird netting around the bushes when they start to fruit so the branches have to be inside the perimeter of the bed. Next year I will prune them hard again.

Next was the strawberry bed. I completely replanted it last year so this will be the peak year for berries if the extra harsh winter didn't damage the plants too much. Normally I would pull off most of the mulch but we are still getting frosts and I will wait a couple weeks. But I wanted to get the bird netting up to keep rabbits out. There was evidence of rabbits already visiting, some pellets, so this was well needed. You can't see the netting in this photo but it is draped over the white rope. All the higher parts of the plants either froze off or were eaten by the rabbits so all that is there now are mulch-level plants. But they should grow quickly once it warms up.

I had planted a couple spinach seeds in my cold frame in the late fall, curious how they would do. Had it not been so cold this winter I was expecting to be able to pick some now and then but I was not even able to get the lid open because of the huge amount of snow. We got over 70 inches of snow this winter. So imagine my surprise when I opened the lid and saw seven spinach plants happily growing! I will be able to start picking the lower, outer leaves. This was what I did when I lived in The Netherlands; I had spinach and/or lettuce every day for my salads or sandwiches. It gets much hotter in Pennsylvania so it won't last all summer here though.

Next weekend I hope to plant radishes in the cold frame and green peas out in the main garden. The rabbits annihilated my peas last year so I will have to protect them better this year. I have a plan and I'll show you that when I do it.

That's all for now; get out and get your garden started.