economics

Totnes: local cappuccino for local people

Backward campaigners trying to prevent Costa coffee from opening a shop in the Devon market town should wake up and smell their own hypocrisy.

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Exposing the myths about local food

Food activists claim that ‘local’ food is more sustainable, secure and nutritious. As Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu demonstrate in The Locavore’s Dilemma, local-food promoters couldn’t be more wrong.

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How food got cheaper

A nice piece to mark the 150th anniversary of food trade newspaper The Grocer shows how much cheaper food is now compared to when the paper first started.

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What’s wrong with Big Food?

My article in City AM, a preview of a Battle of Ideas debate, looks at why big business has, by and large, provided the food system that we need.

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The politics of The People’s Supermarket

A visit to the reportedly radical store reveals that it doesn’t quite live up to its posh backers’ expectations.

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Why I don’t buy this ‘People’s Supermarket’

Channel 4’s latest one-man mission to change consumer habits has little to do with the interests of The People.

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Food price rises starting to look serious

Prices are now at or above the crisis levels of 2008 for many food commodities. But that time, there was a strong element of speculation involved. It will be interesting to see how much of the current price rise has similar roots. Rising oil prices - now at $95 per barrel - won’t be helping, though.

World food prices enter 'danger territory' to reach record high, Guardian

How food price spikes are a product of fear

Interesting piece by Robert Paarlberg that dismisses many of the usual explanations for food price spikes - Chinese demand, crop failure, biofuels - and puts it on over-reaction in the commodities markets: poor harvests lead to panic buying which brings in speculators which leads to export bans which leads to more speculation and panic buying.

How grain markets sow the spikes they fear, Financial Times

Food price inflation: don’t fret just yet

Andrea Hotter on the Wall Street Journal blog suggests that the shortfalls in wheat production in Russia should not feed through to major price inflation - as happened in 2008 - just yet. The major cause of rising prices back then was rising oil prices, which raised transportation and fertiliser costs. In 2010, those pressures aren’t there and the production problems seem to be isolated to Russia. Hotter suggests that there were no supply issues back in 2008, but that seems wrong. There were shortfalls in Australian production, for example. But the basic tenor of the article seems about right.

Food Inflation: Don’t Panic, Yet, Wall Street Journal

A foodie’s guide to the history of humanity

Tom Standage’s fascinating new book reveals how central were the production, transportation and consumption of food to the creation of human societies and human progress.

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About Panic on a Plate

Once we worried about getting enough food. Now we seem to fret about having too much food, or about what food might do to us and the planet. This website is designed to be an antidote to food fears.

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Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed An Eating Disorder is published by Societas. Buy the book from Amazon (UK) here.

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