Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and Drink

Of bubbles and flooding and food The bite of the world food crisis

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Seventy percent of Queensland devastated by floods, an area about the size of B.C. Mighty Queensland brought to its knees. A state where about 85 percent of the land supports agricultural activities - everything from raising cows and other livestock to growing apples, citrus crops, legumes, nuts, berries, cereal grains and many, many vegetables, including the great Queensland blue squash we learned much about last year, thanks to Pemberton's Sarah MacMillan at Rootdown Organics.

In Pakistan, flooding that started last July and continues today has impacted more than 20 million people and destroyed about 17 million acres of farmland, which constitutes 30 percent of the country's productive land, an area the size of England. Affected crops include animal fodder, rice and pulses (or legumes) such as lentils. Experts say it will take years - seven, 10, 12 years, who knows how long - for the land to recover and become productive again.

All this in a nation where, according to the U.N., the prices of essential staples have skyrocketed, increasing about 40 per cent over the last five years. A land where about 77 million Pakistanis, or more than half the people, didn't have enough to eat on an ongoing basis before the current disaster began.

This week China is reporting that the country's main wheat-growing area in the north has not seen rain in three months. The second most important wheat-growing area, Shandong province, is facing its worst drought in  - take your pick - a century or 60 years. The dry weather is expected to continue for some time but people in some Shandong cities are already relying on fire trucks to deliver drinking water.

Closer to home, in Manitoba, where winter has brought record snowfalls and spring melt hasn't begun, soil moisture levels are currently double what's normal and higher than those in 1997 when the province faced the "flood of a century."

Some experts are predicting the entire province could be subjected to flooding this spring. According to Statistics Canada, or what remains of it, Manitoba contains about one-quarter of Canada's farmland and cropland combined and normally is the source of about 15 per cent of the nation's wheat, 26 per cent of our oats, and about 10 per cent of all the cows and calves raised in this great land of ours.

 

Many of these weather-related disasters can be laid at the feet of this year's La Niña effect, part of the El Niño Southern Oscillation phenomenon. La Niña sees ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific cool down and change weather patterns. La Niña isn't new. What is remarkable, however, is how strong the effect is this year - and it's expected to last a few more months.

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