George Graham

What in the World Are We Going to Do about Food Prices?

I sit in front of the television set and listen to highly paid commentators discussing the latest gaffe by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, and I wonder:

Why aren’t they talking more about worldwide food prices?

With wheat up 130 percent and other staples in alarmingly short supply, you would think the United Nations would call an emergency session to find solutions to the worldwide food crisis. But no. The UN was listening to a long and abstract discourse by the Pope.

In my view, every available resource should be focused on the food shortage. Its implications are unimaginably frightening. Forget about oil. We don’t have to drive. But we have to eat.

When the commentators find time to talk about food prices, they blame drought in places like Australia, the increasing use of grain to produce fuel, the rise of demand in places like China and India and spiraling transportation costs resulting from oil speculation.

But when I was a child, we had terrible droughts in St. Elizabeth, and my father, who was an agricultural instructor, went around telling farmers how to combat those conditions. They used a lot of mulch for one thing. In my later years, I heard about a process known as drip irrigation, which apparently can make the desert bloom.

Wheat is grain. Grain is grass. Nothing grows more profusely. When I remember the warehouses full of surplus wheat spread across Canada during the ’50s and ’60s, I just can’t get my mind around the concept of a worldwide shortage of grain. Besides, what happened to the millet in places like India? The rice in places like Guyana? And what kind of land could be so poor that you can’t grow corn and peas?

I am not surprised that demand for food is rising in Asia. How long did we expect those billions of people to satisfy themselves with a bowl of rice a day?

And why can’t we reduce transportation costs by finding ways to produce more food locally instead of depending on shipments from far and wide?

During World War II, Jamaica was blockaded by U-boats. We couldn’t get anything from abroad. We made flour from mango seeds. Gas was rationed so my father put the car on blocks and bought two sturdy horses and a buggy. We kept goats, rabbits and chickens. We sent eggs to the Clackens and they sent us milk from their cows. We got by.

When I went to England in 1951 they still had food rationing. If I remember, we were allowed something like half a pound of beef a week, and so on. They got by. Maybe governments around the world should consider some kind of rationing system for staples like gas and food.

I hear about things like hydroponics and new ways of developing foodstuffs from seaweed. Why isn’t the scientific community concentrating on this kind of research, instead of trying to invent better shampoo and more seductive lipstick?

Surely, if we all put our heads together we could come up with answers to the worldwide food crisis. But we’d better get cracking before it’s too late.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for