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Page added on July 30, 2007

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Peak oil – expensive food

Grain production in 2004 was of the order of 2 billion tonnes but with a growing and more sophisticated population production is falling short of consumption and stocks are being drawn down. The amount of crops lost to pests is increasing since immune pests are evolving faster than new pesticides can be invented. More importantly, Peak Oil, increasing demand for petroleum over-production, will make transportation, the operation of machinery and the production of petroleum-based fertilisers much more expensive, all contributing to a crisis in agriculture. Today the food production system consumes ten times the amount of fossil fuel energy as the energy in the food itself. With the coming decline in oil production, its increasing demand and its subsequent scarcity and high price, how will we be able to support the present world and regional populations?
Trinidad &Tobago produces oil and gas which are expected with
reserves depletion to become too expensive to exploit within the next 15 to 20 years. Conforming to product specialisation, again dependent on cheap fuel transport, T&T exports energy products and imports much of its food from the rents earned. Already food prices are increasing due to the increasing international energy prices, demand for food and to the high liquidity of the TT dollar in the local economy. Local subsidised energy prices will have no impact on the world phenomenon of increasing prices of imported food.

We have to grow more food. Our experience with steel down- streamers suggests that the production of fertilisers by foreign direct investors in T&T will not mean cheaper fertilisers to local farmers. T&T will have no alternative but to follow in Cuba’s footsteps and develop an agricultural industry that moves progressively away from energy intensive techniques into small family lots and co-ops. We note approvingly that Caroni lands are being divided up into small family lots but are concerned about the intention to create large farms with the help of the Cubans. One can only hope that given Cuba’s experience and expertise these farms will not be fossil fuel intensive.

Trinidad Express



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