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Food prices on the up and up

(article, Caroline Cummins)

Ah, inflation. Everything costs more eventually, right? In the U.S., the average price of gasoline has reached an all-time high of $3.27 per gallon. And around the world, the cost of food is following suit. 

As the New York Times reported recently, "Everywhere, the cost of food is rising sharply." In the U.S. alone, "food and beverage prices are rising 4 percent a year, the fastest pace in nearly two decades."

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This pleases farmers — they're earning more money for their products and can plant a wider variety of crops, despite having to pay higher fuel costs — but worries nearly everyone else, the Times reported:

bq. Whether the world is in for a long period of continued increases has become one of the most urgent issues in economics. Many factors are contributing to the rise, but the biggest is runaway demand.

Developing nations are, well, developing faster than ever before, which means that more people want to eat better (and can afford it) than ever before. And, as Robert Malthus liked to obsess about, demand is outstripping supply.

"In the long run, the food supply could grow," reported the Times. "More land may be pulled into production, and outdated farming methods in some countries may be upgraded. Moreover, rising prices could force more people to cut back. The big question is whether such changes will be enough to bring supply and demand into better balance."

But the affordability question won't go away. As a farmer in Washington state told the Times, "We’ve lulled the public with cheap food. It’s not going to be a steal anymore."

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