In 2020, we were in the last year of Make America Great Again. With the change from Orange Man rule to Slow Joe management, we entered 2021 with Build Back Better. Now I’m reading predictions of food shortages happening in 2022. That one kind of bothers me – on one hand, I like eating. On the other hand, famines have a fairly strong correlation with rapid, unstructured governmental changes.
Somehow it seems difficult to build back better if you’re short on calories. Higher energy and fertilizer prices tend to limit production. Famines were becoming less frequent until about 5 years back, when they started showing up again in Africa. Memory takes me back to 1959 to 61, when the famine in China starved between 20 million and 50 million people, and is classified as one of the greatest man-caused disasters in history.
A Malthusian demographer would see the time of famine as natural, as unavoidable. Since I’m not particularly Malthusian, I see causality as human caused – unfortunately, agriculture is a real world practice, and politicians seem to concentrate on their particular chosen ideology and live lives that are immune to Real World 101. The upbeat side of the war in Ukraine is that it has demonstrated that Russia’s leaders are just as incompetent as our own.
So what are we looking at? The Ukraine’s wheat crop is going down due to war, expensive fuels and lack of fertilizer. Russia’s crop isn’t likely to improve. Here’s a list of wheat production from: worldpopulationreview
Top 10 Wheat Producing Countries (in tons of wheat produced 2020)*
- China — 134,254,710
- India — 107,590,000
- Russia — 85,896,326
- United States — 49,690,680
- Canada — 35,183,000
- France — 30,144,110
- Pakistan — 25,247,511
- Ukraine — 24,912,350
- Germany — 22,172,100
- Turkey — 20,500,000
We tend to associate rice with China and India – and between them they account for just under 400 million tons of production annually. India is the world’s largest rice exporter – and China doesn’t make the exporter list. The top 5 wheat exporting countries are Russia, the US, Canada, France and Ukraine – and it isn’t hard to predict lower exports from Russia and Ukraine. When a system is running close to capacity, it doesn’t take a large drop to affect the whole.
If we go back and look at the potato blight in Ireland, during the 7 years of the blight, the country continued to export food. The big cause of the famine was the blight – put politics and leadership intensified the damage. The holodomor, in Ukraine, was a deliberate famine caused by the Soviet government to eliminate a social class. While drought played a role in the Chinese famine of 1959 – 1961, the famine was more caused by governmental decisions.
I recall Red Foxx describing the famine in China – it’s been years, so I won’t get the lines exactly right, but he made his own version of Comrade Mao’s speech: “Comrades, I address you now with bad news and good news. First the bad news: Our Great Leap forward has stumbled. It has fallen. Agricultural production has fallen. By this time next month, there will be nothing left to eat but horse manure. But there is good news, comrades: There won’t be enough to go around.”
Biden has made a living as a politician since he was first elected to the Senate in 1972. Putin started work for the KGB in 1975. Neither has a whole lot of work experience outside government jobs. Zelensky, like Biden, started with a law degree, but then went into comedy. From 2015 to 2019 his main gig was a role as President of the Ukraine – then he became President. Perhaps people in all nations should better consider the leadership levels we accept.