Long accustomed to plentiful and affordable meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, Australians may have to get used to higher prices as the soaring cost of agricultural staples suggests an era of cheap food is coming to an end.

After a brief pause, due to the global economic crisis which temporarily depressed demand, international food prices are approaching those of mid-2008, when the cost of rice, corn, cereals and soybeans skyrocketed, triggering food riots and political instability in more than 30 countries.

Of course, spikes in food prices are not new, nor are they necessarily a cause for concern. As every shopper knows, agricultural produce is prone to seasonal and cyclical fluctuations as the devastating floods in Queensland are about to remind us. But longer-term trends indicate that structural shifts in demand and supply are beginning to alter the food calculus.

Continue reading…