The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

grain prices continue to rise - buy NOW

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subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

grain prices continue to rise - buy NOW

From: Mike Avery <mavery@mail.otherwhen.com>
Subject: Stock up!
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2008 20:26:42 -0500


Hi,

I was touring a really neat bakery today here in Dallas. The owner
was telling me about flour prices, and they are scary! They have
pretty much tripled since the start of the year. For wheat, for rye,
and more than that for semolina.

If you can afford it, and if you have the storage space for it, stock
up on your favorite flours NOW. The full effects of the price hikes
haven't made it to the grocery stores, but that happy situation is
unlikely to continue for much longer.

Even more important than stocking up on flour, if you like pasta,
stock up. The price of semolina flour has gone up far more. It was
over $160 for a 50lb sack. This is like the ONLY ingredient in most
pastas, and the price will have to go up.

There are a number of factors in the price hikes. Some of them are
not really amenable to short term fixes. Some of them are beyond
anyone's control. Here's a few of them....

A number of wheat farmers have switched to growing corn for ethanol -
the government subsidies for this ill conceived project are just too
attractive for some farmers to say no to. The pendulum could swing
back the other way, but most observers say that by itself, this would
not have been a major issue - there would have been enough acres of
wheat being raised if it hadn't been for the rest of these issues.

Next, the dollar is in free-fall, dropping faster than (oh... just
think up your own tawdry comparison here). This has caused a year long...

Rise in fuel prices. It takes fertilizer to grow the stuff (in
conventional agriculture, anyway), fuel to tend it, and fuel to move
it and process it.

Next, the China and India have quickly growing middle classes who
want more wheat products. Pasta. Bread. Increased demand and a
dwindling supply ALWAYS causes problems. And they have lots of
dollars to spend.

And finally, the crops are bad this year, both in quantity and
quality. This is above and beyond the reduced acreage. As a result,
stocks of wheat are reaching record lows, and some industry
spokespeople have said it will take 2 to 3 consecutive good years to
bring things back to normal.

If you grind your own flour, stock up on wheat berries, they last a
LONG time. If you are a whole grain baker, you might consider
starting to grind your own flour. Whole grain flours have a limited
shelf life, and they will go rancid fairly quickly. How quickly? It
depends on storage conditions, but figure 6 months or so. The clock
starts ticking when the grain is ground into flour. Wheat and rye
berries have a very, very long shelf life. What about white
flour? With the bran and germ removed, refined flours have a much
longer shelf life than whole grain flours. Figure between 2 and 3 years.

In both the case of whole grain flours and refined flours, you can
extend their shelf life by freezing the flours. Remember, a full
freezer is pretty cheap to run. If you don't have one, look around
for a used chest freezer - they are cheap to buy, you can put more
into them than in an upright, and they are cheaper to run than an
upright freezer.

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

While I agree that most of the factors listed above are issues of concern, I would suggest it is a confused and somewhat alarmist representation of the true state of affairs.

Yes we may well see short term (indeed dramatic) wheat price increase on the US domestic market but to say that the  'middle classes in China and India' are driving prices up is clearly oversimplifying the matter. Such factors are not the sources of the problem but more symptoms of an underlying problem for any country to produce enough wheat due to crop failure on a global scale. (The 'if in doubt blame China' argument has grown rather old in my eyes and says more about the west than it does about asia....but that's another story which has nothing to do with bread so I will refrain!)

The value of the dollar is indeed a problem but not one specific to the food markets. Whether it's politically correct to say it or not, the US and likely the UK are heading for a period of economic recession.

I fully accept that if you're running a bakery or mill then grain/wheat supply is of paramount concern but if every home baker were to stockpile wheat and flour in the manner suggested then surely the net result would be to simply to aggravate the problem and in the worst case, escalate it to disastrous proportions.  In that scenario, the biggest factor to drive prices would be panic.  Things would  get worse not better.

Looking to the long term future, perhaps the solution for the dedicated baker lies in local collective farming efforts?  Who knows, sprouted wheat might prove more useful than just it's enzymes!

Anyway, that's just my two (ever depreciating) pence on the subject... It's not my intention to stir up a political debate.  I hope my reply can be seen in the light it's intended (one of calm and careful consideration).

 

 

saintdennis's picture
saintdennis

I do not think is true.Let's look on price of gas you buy in your car.The price go up because the shortage of the gas but oil company have huge profits and that is with everything as:gas,flour,building materials and list go on and on.I do belive before election the price will go down.Last year before Christmas I bought 50 pounds of a/p flour for $ 12.75 and same flour I paid today is $35.00.I do belive that company want to make huge profit.Its very sad that happening here.

                                    Saintdennis