Nuestro Perdido Eden... ¿Tienes Hambre?

A couple of weeks ago we were at Whole Foods to buy ingredients for dinner that night. Meat, vegetables, some spices, manchego from Spain, provolone from Italy, and a bottle of California wine. After paying, I looked at my receipt, winced, and said, "Damn! Food's getting really expensive! Pretty soon we're going to have to start food shopping at Wal-Mart! THE HORROR!"

Then we had a good laugh. to this evening...

A clip on the evening news talked about the rising prices of food, especially now that huge swaths of the mid-west and plains states are under water from severe flooding. Acre upon acre of corn and soybean farms lie ruined by flood waters.

Apparently, the United States produces over 50% of the world's corn, and over 25% of the world's soybeans. The sudden drop in corn and soybean supply, coupled with the diversion of hundreds of billions of pounds of corn into ethanol production, puts extreme pressure on food prices. This is especially true because most of the world's meat is now obtained from grain-fed livestock.

(And by the way, in terms of energy efficiency, corn ethanol sucks. Bigtime. But the US government is too stupid to understand facts and figures and too beholden to the powerful corn lobby to acknowledge it. So now peasants in Mexico can't afford tortillas.)

We have a perfect storm: the bio-fuel craze sweeping North America, Europe, and Brazil, floods in the mid-west, drought in California, rising prosperity (and therefore food demand) in China and the Indian sub-continent, and insanely high prices for the fuel needed to transport food to all corners of the world.

Eureka moment: Aha! That's why shopping at Whole Foods is beginning to hurt my wallet!

Then came the reality check: comparative statistics.

According to the news clip, the average American household now spends 10% of its income on food. In contrast, the average household in the Philippines spends 55% of its income on food. Fifty-five percent! That was a real shock.

I mean, I always knew that food was a lot more expensive in the Philippines, especially when calculated as a percentage of income. I just had no idea it was that much more expensive.

Kawawa naman talaga ang Pilipinas. I sometimes wish I could just wave a magic wand and fix the ills of the Philippines. All that poverty is heartbreaking. Ninety million people, the vast majority of whom are poor.

So, I won't whine anymore about not being able to shop at Whole Foods as much. I will try to keep my complaints about food prices to a minimum. I'll remain thankful that I live and work here in the United States, and that I have access to some of the cheapest food on earth.

*But I will never, ever, do any of my shopping at Wal-Mart. tee hee