Shaddock ‘n roll, there’s 15 billion chocolate bars to eat

You may remember the dramatic food price spikes of 2007-2008. At the time, the main causes were attributed to increased oil prices, climate change, biofuels, and increased food consumption, especially meat, as populations grow and become wealthier.

All of these were undoubtedly, and will continue to be, a factor.

However, another important factor has now been in the spotlight recently. Speculation by financial institutions. In particular, an investment type even more removed from reality than most. Derivatives. A derivative is not based on an exchange of goods or money, but is a contract with a value linked to the expected future price of an asset. While initially contracts were aimed at offering farmers a guaranteed price for their goods, providing them with some security, things soon became murkier as speculators disconnected from growing or selling wheat got involved. The US government in the 1930’s introduced regulation to control this, but this was repealed in the early 1990’s under intense pressure from the banking industry. In 2008, at the height of the food price increases, 80% of wheat contracts were held by those with nothing to do with wheat beyond trying to profit from it. Farmers were suffering from the volatility, and the poor were hardest hit by increased food prices.

Speculation came under the spotlight again recently when a single trader, a hedge fund, bought 240,000 tonnes of cocoa, 7% of the total annual global production, sending prices surging. That’s enough cocoa for 15 billion chocolate bars. Not even I can eat that much.

While growing as much of our own crops locally is a good response, if we want to continue to eat foods like rice and chocolate that aren’t available locally, we’ll have to buy them on the world market – one that’s hopefully regulated for the benefit of all, not just speculators who trade at our expense.

We have quite a few items back in stock this week, mostly herbs and spices. And, if the array of white basmati, brown basmati, white jasmine, brown jasmine, brown health, brown long-grain, thai red, white round and wild rice isn’t enough, we have black rice back in stock as well. Although most rice shares a similar nutritional profile, black rice is very high in iron.

Wild rice is a different species, native to the US. According to an Ojibwe legend (a Native American people living near Minnesota in the US), Nanaboozhoo was out hunting. He returned, having failed to find any game. As he came back to his pot of boiling water, he saw a duck sitting on the edge. It flew off as he approached, but Nanaboozhoo saw some grass floating in the water. He made soup from his water, and it was the best he’d ever tasted. He followed the direction the duck had taken, and saw geese, ducks, mud hens and all sorts of other birds feasting on the grain which grew in the waters.

As a result, Nanaboozhoo gave up killing deer, and manoomin, the wild rice, became an important cultural symbol (and gastronomic delight) for his people.

We also have something new in the fresh line this week. Coming from Kleinjongenskraal farm in the Cederburg is a crop of shaddock – a pale green to yellow citrus fruit, with a sweet flesh and very thick rind. It is usually pale green to yellow when ripe, and apparently tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit, though often larger in size.

I look forward to trying it out this week!

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Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team