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Consume Less, Experts Advise as Malthusian Nightmare Returns to Haunt West

Malthus is being revisited across the West. Experts have begun to wonder whether cheap food is not a thing of past and agricultural commodity prices are skyrocketing .

For those of us who have grown up in post-war Britain food prices have gone only one way, and that is down. Sixty years ago an average British family spent more than one-third of its income on food. Today, that figure has dropped to one-tenth. But for the first time in generations agricultural commodity prices are surging with what analysts warn will be unpredictable consequences, warns Daniel Howden, noted journalist.

The price of cereals in the UK jumped by 12 per cent in the past year. And the cost of milk on the global market has leapt by nearly 60 per cent.

Cheap food is about to become a thing of the past. Agflation, to those that believe that it is really happening, is an increase in the price of food that occurs as a result of increased demand from human consumption and the use of food crops as fuel.

On the one hand the growing affluence of millions of people in China and India is creating a surge in demand for food - the rising populations are not content with their parents' diet and demand more meat. On the other, is the use of food crops as a source of energy in place of oil, the so-called bio-fuels boom.

As these two forces combine they are setting off warning bells around the world. Rice prices are climbing worldwide. Butter prices in Europe have spiked by 40 per cent in the past year. Wheat futures are trading at their highest level for a decade. Global soybean prices have risen by a half. Pork prices in China are up 20 per cent on last year and the food price index in India was up by 11 per cent year on year. In Mexico there have been riots in response to a 60 per cent rise in the cost of tortillas.

So far Britain has been insulated from the early effects of these price rises by the competitive nature of the country
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