At the moment we are not in a good position. The west has said to Putin, ‘You’re not the Messiah, you’re a very naughty boy. We’re not going to let you play with our football.” It’s then added, “Oh but you’ll still sell us wheat won’t you?”
Perhaps Putin is going to just say, “Obesity is a major problem in the west, it’ll do you all good to eat less.”
The trouble is that Russia and the Ukraine have been vying for the position of the world’s largest grain exporters for some time. From 2019
To quote, “Russia has been the global grain exporter top dog for the last three years, but as the agricultural marketing year ended on June 30, it looks like Ukraine has snatched the title back from its rival.”
The problem is, it’s awfully difficult to plant grain when somebody is fighting a major war over the field you intended to be working in. Putin hasn’t parked his tanks on your lawn, he’s driving them over lunch. So now the quandary, do you want a quick war, over in a month so that the Ukrainians, watched over by their Russian siblings, can plant those fields, then later in the year we can grovel to Putin asking him to sell us the grain? Or do you want the Ukrainians to hang on, even give Putin a bloody nose and make him think again about crushing democracies, but then find bread is going to be awfully expensive come this winter (but look on the bright side, you won’t be able to afford the gas or electric to make toast). Luckily in the UK we don’t buy much grain from the Ukraine or Russia, but then we don’t buy much gas from Russia but the market was disrupted and our gas supplies got a lot more expensive. The same will probably happen with grain. To quote CNN Business
Concerns about an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine are roiling the market for agricultural products like wheat at a time when global food prices are already near 10-year highs.
Russia is the world’s top exporter of wheat. Ukraine is also a significant exporter of both wheat and corn. That’s sending prices for grains on a bumpy ride as investors assess the potential for conflict.
“There’s certainly volatility based on what is going on,” said Peter Meyer, head of grain analytics at S&P Global Platts.
Interference in shipments of wheat or corn from Russia and Ukraine could exacerbate food inflation, most notably in parts of the world that depend on them for supplies.
Global food prices rose as much as 28% in 2021, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and are expected to continue to climb this year due to persistent supply chain issues.
“Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and corn and any disruption to its exports would lead to a spike in global prices,” said Ophelia Coutts, a Russia analyst at the global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “A combination of high food and energy prices will accentuate a cost-of-living crisis and increase the potential for civil unrest in many places, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.”
Let’s be brutally honest about it, given the massive hike in the price of fertilisers and fuel, the price of grain needed to go up, even if Putin wasn’t playing silly beggars on the Dnieper.
But what do we do about it?
Well in the west there is a window. Boris could, probably without parliamentary permission, suspend all environmental schemes that took land out of production. He’d probably have to do it for a fixed period (say two or three years) and he could encourage grain production.
Ideally the Americans and the EU would copy us. Yes it would probably be bad for the environment, ploughing releases CO2 back into the atmosphere, but look at the bright side, you’d be able to afford to eat next year and we might not see chaos rip through Africa and the Middle East when they couldn’t afford bread.
With regard to energy Boris has got severe problems, not of his own making. A large proportion of a previous generation of our political leaders were gutless nonentities who didn’t have the courage to give us a rational energy policy.
Personally I think he should lay a bill before parliament allowing fracking for a fixed term of years. It should also lay down strict regulations, to be strictly enforced, as to what you can put down the sewers, then we can use sewage sludge as fertiliser. That way we can still afford to grow the food we need.
Also Rolls Royce are doing work on small nuclear reactors that will serve a town. (They’re effectively nuclear sub reactors). This programme should be expedited! Those towns that don’t want one can buy ridiculously expensive gas instead.
The advantage of putting it before parliament is that it will make MPs make a stand. If they vote against it, when constituents come crying to them because they cannot afford to heat their homes or buy food, then the MP who voted against this can tell them that they can keep warm by basking in the smug moral glow the MP got voting against it.
We’re imposing sanctions that will stop the Russians having access to financial service. Putin can impose sanctions which will mean a lot of the world will have less access to food.
I don’t know about you but I can go a lot longer without dealing with the bank than I can without lunch.
There again, what do I know, ask an expert
As a reviewer commented, “
I love Jim’s autobiographical musings. They make me feel that I am following him and Sal, his dog and manager, around the farm as he encounters the vicissitudes of everyday life. I feel I’m wandering around after him, with his great narrative style.
This book, along with the others in this series, are an absolute treat and gives us the opportunity to explore life in someone else’s head.”