Food: higher prices, more shortages – and it’s not just inflation


Last month I published an article titled “Remember those warnings about the food supply?”  In it, I noted:

The fertilizer market is currently incapable of supplying enough product to meet demand – and that may affect next season’s harvest quite appreciably, not just in the USA, but worldwide.

Now the Wall Street Journal warns that “Surging Fertilizer Costs Push Farmers to Shift Planting Plans, Raise Prices“.

Escalating costs are leading some farmers to shift acres toward less fertilizer-intensive crops, like soybeans, while others said they plan to cut back on their overall fertilizer use, potentially reducing future harvests.

Lower grain production could translate to higher prices for farm commodities like corn, analysts and farmers said. They added that higher costs for such commodities would further inflate prices of pantry staples like cereal and cooking oil, as well as beef and other meat, because producers rely heavily on grain to feed livestock and poultry … Fertilizer is typically among farmers’ biggest expenses each year, and higher prices threaten what has been a banner year for many growers.

. . .

The rise in fertilizer costs is partly fueled by elevated natural gas prices, a key ingredient for nitrogen-based fertilizers, as well as by severe storms in the U.S. that disrupted fertilizer plants earlier this year and a move by China this summer to ban exports of phosphate, a major fertilizer component. Some farmers also blame fertilizer companies for the rising prices.

. . .

The potential for higher fertilizer costs to cut into production of corn and other crops could fuel continued food-price inflation. Food costs have already climbed this year as companies have passed along higher labor, transport and packaging costs.

There’s more at the link.

We’re already seeing the effects of the “food crunch”.  Fellow blogger Sgt. Mom at Chicago Boyz notes:

Considering how the price of groceries and everything else is inflating, and how supply-chain issues are leaving unexplained and erratic gaps on store shelves, this indeed might be the last year that we can do the fudge assortments [as Christmas presents]. Butter, cream, chocolate, sugar – all those good things will certainly be more expensive next year. The prices for meat, especially for beef and bacon have all but doubled in the last few months alone. Looking ahead and considering the credible news sources available to me, makes me wonder if grocery store shelves might eventually look like those in Venezuela – bare of anything at all, or like those in Soviet Russia, years ago?

Food austerity looms on the horizon like an oncoming storm-cloud. In the near future, we may not be able to afford certain items, or they aren’t available at any price. We had a taste of what serious shortages might look like, last year during the first weeks of the Covid panic, when shelves of canned goods were practically stripped bare, as was the bakery and fresh meat section, while shoppers waiting impatiently for milk and eggs to be restocked. We worry, and not without reason, about what will happen in the coming year. I can’t see how things can improve, economically and politically, although living in Texas may shelter us from the very worst that can happen.

It has been very nice, living in a world where ordinary, working-class people like my daughter and I can afford to give away a nice edible gift of home-made treats, much less be able to eat protein like eggs and meat for supper five nights out of seven. I wonder if we are living in the last days of the golden era that was an era of plenty; plenty of food, cheap gas, inexpensive luxuries. What a piece of work are our ruling class, that they would cheerfully consign regular citizens to a bleak, cold and deprived future.

Again, more at the link.

I’d say her apprehension is fully justified.  It’s why I’ve increased our own emergency supplies and reserves of food, even taking on additional credit card debt in order to ensure that we’ve got at least some additional food security.  That’s also why more and more consumers, those who can see what’s coming and the early effects already visible all around us, are changing their shopping habits right now.  They’re buying as much food and other everyday needs as possible, so as to ensure that in future, in a high-inflation environment where everything costs more as time passes, they’ll have at least some of them on hand rather than being forced to buy what they may no longer be able to afford.

I respectfully suggest that we should plan our budgets – and our pantries – so as to have at least thirty days of food on hand at all times.  That needn’t include luxuries, but it should include a nutritionally adequate, balanced diet for every member of the household for at least that long.  If our budgets can stretch to a three-month balanced food supply, so much the better.  As for the longer term, very few of us can afford (or have the space to store) a full pantry sufficient for a more extended period;  but we can often find or make space for basic foodstuffs like dried beans, rice, etc.  They may not be very appetizing, but they’ll last a long time, and beans and rice together make a complete protein that’s adequately nutritious.  The way things are going, supplies like that might just come in handy . . .



  1. Peter famines historically tended to be localized. Enough food, just not in all the right places.

    The coming worldwide famine is going to be a doozy. Right up there with the Pharoh's dream of 7 fat cows and 7 gaunt cows.

    Just today I went to pick my pre-ordered fertilizer at Agway and it's not available. I was asked if I wanted a refund or wait and hope. My order wasn't a farms multi-ton order, but I am VERY HAPPY I have more than 2 years back up fertilizer on hand right now.

    Got seeds? Got gardening skills? Know how to process found organic materials into compost-fertilizer?

    NO Federal Reserve Notes or worse electronic digits will NOT make good compost.

  2. Ten or twelve years ago I thought things were falling apart and that it would be too late for some people to prepare, and yet here we are. Never stop preparing.

    There is so much that can be done with the basic recommended food storage staples of grains (flour/wheat/rice/pasta/etc), sugars, oil, beans, dry milk, and salt. Once you've gathered those, move on to including yeast, baking soda and powder, cocoa, canned items.

    Everything Michael said above is spot on, but I think the coming famine will be much worse than Pharaoh's famine. And a couple of months of food won't be near enough. Stack it deep.

    If you've got food covered, move on to medicine. Nearly all our pharmaceuticals and medical supplies come from China. That's a truly disheartening thought.

  3. Having lived off of food storage a couple of times, (unemployment, moving, etc.) I cannot stress enough the value of seasonings.
    I know I've commented on this before, but it's worth repeating. Chicken/Beef bullion, spices, salt, pepper, hot sauce. These will provide flavor to even the blandest of meals.
    Beans are so much better with garlic and onion powder. A thousand times better.
    Rice, with a can of chicken, will become a feast with some teriyaki sauce, or sriracha.
    And don't undersell the quantities. Plain ingredients need plenty of seasonings. Whatever you've planned for, triple it.
    Or you'll find yourself scouring the cupboard for something to flavor your food with; reduced to using allspice and soy sauce packets from Panda Express.
    Doesn't that sound delicious?

    1. Yep. I’ve got the basics, but am definitely stocking up on more spices. That makes all the difference. They didn’t call it the spice route for nothing.

  4. As an alternative to storing every seasoning known to man, consider learning how to eat plain. Age and minor health issues and I can no longer eat paprika or garlic or onion, etc. I only use salt and pepper. Your taste buds acclimate. I used to eat all the Mexican food spices, and now I can eat refried beans just with some salt. Not as good, no, but good enough. Yeah, I might be eating too much salt. I feel this will soon be the least of my problems. You can buy bulk salt by getting water softener. Just make sure it is sodium chloride, NOT potassium chloride. Hope this helps somewhat.

  5. Food fatigue is real. Some people, particularly young children and the elderly, will just quit eating. Those responsible for feeding the family and helping to maintain morale do not need the added stress of loved ones refusing to eat. Especially when it is so easy to store the herbs and spices. Making sauces like ketchup, mayo, and salsa isn't all that difficult either. You just have to prepare for it and start practicing now.

  6. Ironically China imports most of it's food. Brazil and the U.S. being the two largest exporters. To the tune of about 50 Billion a year. Sometimes I don't think the left hand knows what the right doing.

  7. Let me add a warning concerning frozen food storage. Just before Thanksgiving my wife took advantage of a RARE sale on prime rib, tritip, flap meat, and bacon. We stocked up. Every freezer, already at around 90% capacity, was completely full. Then one of the freezers died. It had a temp monitor with an alarm on it but the batteries in it died. Seems it had a high temp alarm, but not a low battery alarm. I didn't know the freezer had died until about a week later. I had to throw away almost 100lbs of food, including the prime rib and tritip. I had a Sensorpush temperature monitoring system for the cold storage in the house, but not in the barn, because sensors in the barn couldn't reach the Sensorpush bridge in the house. I ended up finding out that I could add a second bridge in the barn, which was able to pick p the wireless in the house. I HIGHLY recommend the Sensorpush system. Yes, it's somewhat expensive… about as much as the meat I had to throw away… The sensors will monitor the temperature of whatever space you put them in. You can name each one. You can set the high and low alarms for each one, or turn off the alarm altogether. The alarms show up on the Sensorpush app on your phone. And yes, they have a low battery alarm. These aren't just for cold storage. They can be used almost anywhere. I can attribute several "saves" to my system; two or three times when someone didn't close the freezer door properly, and once when the cat yanked the power cord out of the outlet. One "save" will pay for the bridge and sensors. If you don't have wireless at your house you can still use the sensors without the bridge in Bluetooth mode, and they'll communicate with your phone when it's in range. Just do a search on Amazon for info and pricing. No, I have nothing to do with Amazon or Sensorpush.

    One more thing; do yourself a favor; don't pack every space in every freezer. Leave enough room so that if one freezer dies you can at lest get MOST of wat's in it redistributed to the other freezers. With the price of meat right now, my loss was almost worthy of a funeral!

  8. Wars are often fought over Food. Elimination of competition for said food and decent land and water to grow more.

    China has been building up food reserves for decades. The PARTY knows starving people will destroy all they worked for, so food is stored.

    The USA sadly enough eliminated its strategic grain reserves

    Snip Today our national grain reserves have apparently vanished, primarily due to deregulated global markets and globalization, and the 1996 abolishment of our national system of holding grain in reserve – which was gradually depleted until 2008, when the USDA decided to convert all of what was left into its dollar equivalent.

    Basics are excellent storage. For 45.00 the price of a single #10 can of most survival food I can buy two-man months of basics @2K Calores and plenty of protein including the two 5-gallon pails, lids, Multivitamins, vitamin C, bullion, salt, pepper and chili powder etc. Prices as of two months ago at NH Walmart. Both Mercy Pails are behind me as I type.

    Learning how to garden means you can GROW something nice to ADD to those basics, maybe onions, potatoes, dry beans grow very nicely in my garden for MOAR Beans, peppers and such.

  9. With regards to packing freezers full. I always put containers of water in my freezers if I have any space left. Leave some room in the container for expansion as the water freezes. If a put something in the freezer I take out some containers. With a full freezer the unit will run less and if you have a power failure it will take longer for the food to thaw.

  10. The regulation of meatpacking by the USDA and concomitant financialization and consolidation in the industry to the big 4 has brought you meat inflation.

    The regulation of petroleum and related production and concomitant financialization and consolidation in the production, transport, and sale of petroleum distllates and related products has brought you fertilizer scarcity.

    The regulation of agriculture and concomitant financialization and consolidation in ag services, seeds, and fertilizers has brought you grain shortages, for both livestock feed and human consumption.

    The regulation of water and concomitant environmental priority has given you water scarcity and prioritization of fish over humans.

    Scarcity and shortage drive regulation and financialization. This spiral is going to accelerate. If you raise livestock it's time to leave the commodity system and do some serious forward planning for feed. If you want food, it's time to find local farmers and support them and the local butcher.

    As several people noted above food storage is a major concern. Don't worry about just growing that food. Think about how to preserve it over the winter.

    Oh, and if you still pretend that our governance system works, you can always write your elected officials on the local level. Remind them local agriculture isn't something to NIMBY.

  11. This is Stalin's Holodomor on a world wide basis, an intentionally induced famine. The purpose is to kill off as many as possible and gain control of the rest.

  12. Note as to boullion, it is mostly salt. We have gone to using soup base from GFS, and others, in beef, chicken, etc, where the first ingredient is the named meat. Shelf-stable when unopened, in 1 lb tubs or jars.
    The "mercy pail" idea is a great one, both to keep and to give away to less prepared neighbors.
    John in Indy

  13. People need to to strt asking how much grain to we convert to ethanol for the 10% mandate? How much urea is used for DEF? How much does that contribute to the cost and availability right now?

    I honestly don't know but I can't imagine that it is zero.

    We have been so secure in our food and fuel that we could get away with tinkering with such things.

    If things get real bad all these loony environmental things, lefty degrees, and some of the other social ills will be acutely revealed to be the wealthy luxuries of a socitybwithoutvreal want. If/when real want comes it will come as a real shock when normal people start saying no to it.

  14. Don't know about where y'all live, but around these parts it's almost impossible to find a gas pump that does not display that little sign "may contain up to 10% ethanol." And where does that Federally mandated addition come from? Almost exclusively from American grown corn, specifically the same type of field corn grown as livestock feed.
    As corn prices increase, that will inevitably contribute to an even higher price at the pump.

  15. We continue to add to our long term back up food supply. We have 4 freezers fairly full at our homestead and we invested in a chest freezer for both our daughter and our son to have at their house which we help keep well stocked. We have a full pantry, an even fuller deep pantry as well as 60 long term storage 5-6 gallon pails as well as dehydrated food buckets as a back up. We have added 24 Black Australorp dual purpose chickens and a new chicken coop to supplement the 16 Golden Comets we keep for eggs, The Australorps will add additional eggs but will primarily be used as meat chickens We are working on reducing our debt and use extra money saved from that to add to our food supplies.

    I have told friends that this may well not be the beginning of the end of days but it sure will feel that way. It may well be that it will be difficult to recognize the rider on the white horse when the first seal is broken, but we should more easily recognize the rider on the red horse as the second seal is broken and we descend into war. Russia/Ukraine, China/Taiwan and Israel/Iran are all possible triggers for world wide conflict.

    Indeed build up whatever you possibly can for a long term food storage supply and add a large sore of seeds so that you can grow as much food as you possibly can. Strengthen your security measures so you can protect what you have. Build community with those around you. Most importantly strengthen your faith as you also harden your hearts for the times ahead. Remember it is all in God's hands and give thanks unto the Lord.

  16. I stock a large amount of instant gravy packets to use if it really gets bad to add flavor to rice or pasta. They are cheap, come in a bunch of varieties, and are simple to make.

    Of course I stock hot sauce, several powders and granulated flavoring mixes along the lines of Montreal Steak Seasoning, soy sauce, etc.

    I also have some curry cubes that come in a pack like a giant hershey chocolate bar. You break off some cubes to add to your meal. I like them with noodles and a can of chicken. The Golden Curry brand is the one I use. Keeps forever.

    I also hit my asian market for unusual canned fruits- I've got a lot of canned banana and mango, but also jack fruit and others, that I intend to bust out if anyone gets appetite fatigue. Canned pie filling is versatile too. And a pie brightens the day.

    My asian markets have a huge variety of spam flavors and products very similar to spam, as well as unusual sauces and unusual canned goods. Doesn't cost much to add some weird and wonderful to your stacks.

    Of course this is in addition to the standard canned meat and veg, and all the normal dried stuff in buckets.

    I also suggest planning to make flat breads instead of baking loaves. They are quicker, easier, and take less energy to cook. There's a reason most low income cultures have flat breads as a staple. Practice now, because even something as simple as tortillas can have many ways to get it wrong.

    Bad times are coming. For a lot of people bad times are already here. Take what steps you can to mitigate the coming difficulty.

  17. I began stocking too many spices when I began putting things back.
    If I end up with more than I need, spices are great barter items as well.
    Nails and screws, nuts and bolts, washers, gaskets, ins, cotter keys, tools various and sundry.
    Food and water.

    We come out the other side and have stuff left, then my plan worked.

  18. If you are looking to buy bulk spices I recommend Great selection, great service and $5.00 flat rate shipping on orders of $75.00 or more. We purchasefrom them several times a years.

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