Posts Tagged ‘Market’

Matens pris (The price of food) a book

December 16, 2012

Matens pris (The price of food) a book by  Malin Olofsson och Daniel Öhman. Reporto 2011.

Two well informed and ambitious journalists make a journey round the world: Fish farms in Vietnam, soybean in Brazil, pigs and poultry in Europe, greenhouse vegetables in The Netherlands.

The main conclusion is the same as in my book (Mat, klimat , miljö): The global market of today can not consider environmental aspects if this has a cost. The economy, costs and prices, is driving.

In the food chain the primary producer will always be squeezed. He cannot pass the costs.

This is a major problem for our world. Much could be done by international guidelines giving more priority to environment and sustainability than price competition. But there are political obstacles.

In the book it is hoped that small scale production and organic farming can help the world. Sure, they have a role to play, but, as is stated in the book, in spite of all efforts to promote organic products their market share is only 4%. The world has large and growing cities needing food, and for that more production is needed, not less. (But of course better food management can help somewhat).

But the usual popular ideas are aired:

“Nitrogen fertilizer costs energy” (but the fact that 5-10 times more solar energy is captured is neglected)

“Organic production is climate smart” (per hectare, yes, but the lower production changes the picture and the total sum can be plus or minus).

In these issues the critical journalistic ambition takes a holiday,

My own reflection:

There is a way or at least a path to pursue: help the farmers to find better ways within the system (rotations, soil fertility measures, adaptation of inputs etc). Use available knowledge to explore win-win situations improving both economy and environment. Yes – we will do that.

 

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Market and environment.

January 4, 2011

A dynamic free market is a powerful driver for the world development. Competitiveness is crucial and it is measured by the price.

How be competitive?  A basic strategy is specialization, formulated already by Ricardo in 1817. Another is adaptation to the market demands (we could call it shortsightedness).

Agricultural production is based on ecological systems. Good ecological function is favoured by diversity and longterm consideration.

We seem to have a mismatch between economical and ecological demands. Specialization versus diversity and shortsighted economic adaptation versus longterm system consideration.

I think we should recognize this mismatch and do what we can to alleviate the consequences.

The competitive market alone does not solve all problems.

Is the Swedish agricultural model sustainable?

December 5, 2008

The background is a meeting with the farmers in Odling i Balans (Integrated farming). In a way the situation is very encouraging. The production and development is on top and, likewise, considerations concerning environment and resources.

 

The questionmark concerns economic competitiveness.

Investments in animal production are more costly with Swedish rules.

Sweden is more restrictive with chemicals than most. And now comes another step from EU. Harder restrictions (which is very positive). But what about import from production without these restrictions? Some special crop branches may be hit hard.

 

Maybe the Market can solve this? Swedish Quality? And we have the brand Sigill. It seems necessary to go beside the commodity market with pure price competition to get an environmental development. Is that possible with the bulk of the volume?

 

The development continues in Odling i Balans. Now a routine for energy accounting and energy improvement has been launched.

It is also evident that there are improvements to further work on. Some examples:

 

Cover crops and soil management methods for better maintenance of soil organic matter and soil structure, which also affects nitrogen leaching and erosion  A restraint is uncertainty about the consequences “at home” in spite of good experimental results.

 

Crops and varieties for less chemical plant protection. The market is a restraint. Only some varieties are in high demand. Mixtures are difficult.

 

Diversity. Pollination of many seed crops is dependent on insects. And insects are also a general bonus for biodiversity. Establishment of flowering plants at field margins etc can mean a lot. The cost is small. But the awareness (and knowledge) of the positive effects is small. And it is cumbersome to start: how, what, when, how get seeds. Initiatives for simplifying the issue are needed.

The Market and its priorities.

November 30, 2008

 

The turbulent economic situation gives background for many analyses.  The car sector is in peril. In the latest issue of  Ny Teknik an industrialist with good insight in the sector gives the following picture of the background to the disastrous situation:

The sector has been dominated by shortsighted interests. Of course, there are several spectacular futuristic car ideas presented at exhibitions, but they have not been followed up with commercial and market oriented projects. The sales and results of the next 1-2 years have  been given priority. Behind this lack of vision is of course the top management, but also unions and the politicians. All have favoured a safe near future. Therefore this gigantic failure.

 

There are parallells to agriculture. It is very much dominated by shortsighted considerations, which are favoured also by the current political philosophy: the MARKET shall rule. And of course it shall – but at what time scale.

 

Maybe someone thinks that we have the program of organic agriculture. Yes, but in its present definition it has no possibility to “take over” from normal agriculture. The production is too low.  It can be an economically interesting niche (mostly for the trade) covering maybe 20% of the food supply in general terms.

 

Much of the thinking behind organic agriculture could with advantage be adopted by normal agriculture. Or, conversely, the production and yields of organic agriculture could be raised by allowing ecologically based use of plant nutrients, plant protection and plant breeding.

 

Then we could talk about future oriented development.

Agriculture and the market

October 2, 2008

Our Agricultural Secretary and the market.

 

In forceful words the Secretary says the the agriculture shall be governed by the market and not by politicians. This in connection with the discussion in EU, where especially France argues for continued support via CAP.

 

There are different levels in this discussion. One is general support, another is environmentally related support/taxes/ rules, a third is regional development issues.

 

I am convinced that Mr Erlandsson does not mean that the Swedish nitrogen tax or the rules for manure should be abolished, which they should if only the market should guide the development.

 

And the big issue remains: the agriculture must consider longterm issues concerning soil fertility etc and that is difficult to handle by a shortsighted market. There are programs in many countries.

There is a risk that the market is exaggerated in the discussion.