grain prices continue to rise - buy NOW
From: Mike Avery <email@example.com> 
Subject: Stock up!
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2008 20:26:42 -0500
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