By now, all my readers should know a food crisis lies in our immediate future. What you may not know is that it could last for several years.
Specifically, we are looking at an outright shortage of certain products, meaning there will not be enough available and some people will have to go without certain foods. When people cannot buy one thing, they turn to substitutes, which creates additional shortages. As demand outstrips supply, prices rise. As a result, even if food is available, some people will not be able to afford it.
Protectionist practices, which are becoming more common with every passing week, will contribute to more shortages as countries take actions to protect their citizens at the expense of those in other countries.
The countries that suffer the worst will be in Africa, followed by the poorer countries in the Middle East and parts of South and Central America. In the United States, people will suffer financially as prices rise, but those on the margins will see hunger and malnutrition if not outright starvation.
It’s Getting Worse
Why do I say this crisis will last for years? For several reasons:
First, the Ukraine war looks like it will last throughout this year, if not longer. The more planting and harvest seasons in Ukraine go by before the war ends, the longer the food crisis will last.
Second, the Biden Administration is showing absolutely no willingness to produce more oil, gas, or diesel fuel. This futile attempt to force Americans to become greener will actually force them to become leaner. Without diesel, the farm-to-factory-to-store-shelf-to-table food supply chain stumbles and weakens, leaving shortages and rationing in its wake.
Biden will no doubt blame the coming food shortages on Putin, but he could take actions to help prevent or at least minimize both the energy crisis and the food crisis. A drill-baby-drill administration that removes roadblocks and promotes oil exploration, production, and refining could stop the energy crisis and curtail inflation in a year or 18 months. Instead, Biden is going to draw out the shortages until it costs the Democrats the next presidential election. In other words, his energy policy will make us hungrier and poorer for the next three years.
Third, the drought covering the western half of the country continues to negatively affect food production. Weather emergencies in other parts of the world, from floods to excessive heat, are hurting other crops and limiting production around the globe.
Fourth, the fertilizer shortage is unlikely to end until natural gas prices sink back down to earth. This is another unintended consequence of Biden’s green energy plan, which has been made worse by the war in Ukraine and the tension with Russia.
What to Expect
The food crisis is no longer a secret, but many Americans have not yet changed their behavior. They are so focused on infant formula that they have not stopped to think what would happen if there was a shortage of eggs, milk, bread, or other staples they consume regularly.
If you are in the middle of building your prepper pantry to weather some shortages, step up your buying activities. Not only will you save by buying now, before the next price increase, but you will beat the tactics retailers and governments will roll out to stop the shelves from getting low and to minimize the pain. Here are some things to expect during the coming food crisis, plus tips regarding what you can do about them:
We saw this during the early months of the pandemic, and many big box retailers and grocery stores are rolling limit out again. You see the signs posted, limiting you to buying only one or two of an item. This is the first sign of a shortage.
As long as the stores set the limits, you can get around them by visiting different stores, going to a store multiple days per week, or having multiple family members go shopping. When the government takes over and starts rationing (see below), it will be too late to use these tactics, so don’t wait.
Another sign of food shortages will be fewer options when you go shopping.
For example, when you visit the shelf with baked beans, you might be used to seeing twelve different varieties of beans, meaning different sizes, brands, and types. (Vegetarian, Boston baked beans, spicy, etc.) If there were to be a shortage of baked beans, you might see only three or four varieties. Your favorite brand might have disappeared. The small 8-ounce cans you usually opt for may no longer be available.
Manufacturers may also cut back on varieties due to limited ingredients. For example, let’s say that Oreo Cookies are available in 16 different flavors and each is available in four different sizes, making up 64 different SKUs. (I believe there are more than this, but bear with me as this is just a hypothetical example.) If the manufacturer finds they do not have enough of a key ingredient, are they going to keep making cool mint creme and peanut butter creme Oreos? No, they are going to focus their attention and limited supplies on the flagship product. They might also stop making those small sleeves of cookies and limit production to their best selling size.
In both these cases, the limited choices will be because of how stores and brands respond to limited availability and supply chain issues.
Government mandates start when the government tells a manufacturer what to produce and how to price it.
Usually practiced by socialist governments in an attempt to cover up their own management mistakes or corruption, price fixing is an attempt to control the market. It generally fails and makes the situation worse.
If you see price fixing, know that bad times are here and the government is getting desperate.
After price fixing, government intervention in the market continues with rationing. It could happen with both food and energy, especially gasoline and diesel.
during rationing, the government prohibits how much of an item you can buy per week or month. While limits prevent you from buying more than a certain amount of a product, rationing allows you to buy a product, but only that product and only in a limited amount. If your ration does not include orange juice, for example, you can’t buy it. If your ration is for a dozen eggs, that’s all you get, no matter how many times you go to the store.
My guess is that government-mandated rationing will not take place until next year at the earliest. When it arrives, I expect they will issue us a card or an app that uses census and tax data to tell us how much of certain products we can buy. My guess is that the ration will be generic. For example, a family of four might be allowed to buy the following per month:
- Eight gallons of milk
- Twelve pounds of cheese, butter, or other dairy products
- Four dozen eggs
- Six pounds of beef or pork (fresh, canned, or frozen)
- Eight pounds of chicken or other poultry (fresh, canned, or frozen)
- Two pounds of fish (fresh, canned, or frozen)
- Eight loaves of bread
- Any six other baked goods
- Two pounds of pasta
- Five pounds of flour
- Five pounds of sugar
- Six pounds of cereals, hot or cold
- One pound of coffee
- And so forth for produce and other goods
It doesn’t matter if your family consumes 12 gallons of milk in a month or doesn’t eat fish. You’ll have the same ration as everyone else. You may have a chance to appeal or ask for a change, but it will take months to implement.
Make the Most of Your Ration
We are all individuals with different eating habits, likes, and needs, but the rationing system won’t recognize that. You will need to barter and swap to get what you want.
For example, if you don’t drink coffee, get the coffee you are allowed to purchase and then trade it for the flour from someone who is a diehard coffee drinker but doesn’t bake. If your family doesn’t eat meat, buy it and trade it for something you do eat, or use it to pay off vendors. Maybe your son’s tutor will accept a pound of hamburger in return for an hour of tutoring. Not that long ago that they paid the village doctor in trade rather than dollars, and we may have to fall back on that.
Work Outside the System
During a period of rationing, having your own source of food will allow you to provide some calories outside the system or rationing. It will also give you something you can trade or give to a friend or neighbor as a gesture of goodwill. In our case, we would eat most of our garden produce but would expect to have the following as trade goods: eggs weekly; honey in the summer; strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and apples when in season; and possibly venison or other game. The honey will keep, of course. The berries and apples could be canned, frozen or dehydrated. Even the venison could be canned or frozen.
If we get to the point of government-mandated food rationing, there will be shortages of other things as well. This could be common household consumables, such as laundry detergent or toothpaste. It could be imported goods that are no longer arriving on our shores. If you have excess food, you may be able to trade for these items. The reverse may also be true. If you stockpiled laundry detergent, you may find someone will to trade you four gallons of gasoline for your laundry detergent. You might be able to get your three-year-old a new pair of slightly used shoes in return for two bars of soap from your stash.
Excess items will also be available on the black market. If there is something you cannot live without, the black market may be your only solution. Just expect to pay in cash, silver, or crypto.
Black markets are not an evil thing, but they exist outside of government regulation, taxation and control. In most cases, the more the government cracks down, the more people rely on black markets. In some cases, local law enforcement will look the other way, especially if it is Federal law being broken.
Don’t expect the black market to be a building in which furtive looking people sell things. A black market might be entirely online, with transactions taking place in public spaces, much like a Craigslist transaction today. They might also take place in a regular place of business, but “out the backdoor” so to speak. In other words, the butcher who can only sell you two pounds of chicken this week might sell you an entire bird if you come by after closing. The black market may also use delivery drivers.
Don’t be afraid to take part in the black market, but do so carefully and cautiously. The first time, it is best to do so with the help of someone already familiar with it.
Preparation Will Help
I hope you have been preparing for years. If not, then I hope you have been preparing for months. If not, then I hope you are preparing as hard as you can because this crisis will be here soon and will not pass quickly.
Fill your kitchen cabinets with grocery foods with long shelf lives. Fill your freezer, but judiciously. Stash canned goods in your pantry. If you don’t have a pantry, make one from a linen closet, under your bed, or wherever you can fit a shelf. When the store shelves are empty, or when the government tries to tell you what you can eat, you’ll be glad for that can of soup, that tin of spam, or that box of pasta.