Last February in Europe, we noted the series of extreme weather events which resulted in produce becoming scarce and eventually unavailable til spring. This near total loss of capacity strained the regional capacity of the distribution system and eventually resulted in the sourcing of alternative food sources from North Africa.
The current shock has been made worse by this past summer’s heat and hurricane woes which resulted in increase for produce (Hawkes, 2018, Adding to Damage, paras. 1-3). Current Statistics Canada numbers for 2017 in the classes of food is still not available but the general price for food is stated to be 1.6% rise from last year (Statistics Canada, 2018, Cansim table 326-0020).
The map above is the current picture of temperatures across North America and we are a witness to reports in the media of storms, snow, hail, and cold temperatures across the southeastern states. These states produce the fruits and vegetables we consume during the winter months and they have taken a shotgun blast of cold air and weather.
Growers in the Texas region are determining their loss in the wake of sub zero temperatures this past week (Hawkes, 2018, Worst Nightmare, para.1). Further south in Mexico, the picture is the same and there is the concern that citrus trees may have been affected resulting in harvest concerns (Hawkes, 2018, Cold in Mexico, paras. 1-3).
This shock has also affected infrastructure in a negative way, with distribution and transportation components of the food chain system breaking down.
The distribution system in which our food is distributed is called the Just In Time delivery system. Based on past purchases, a forecast is developed and is why grocers no longer keep food stocks. Food is delivered just in time to fill the need and in this system any delays can result in shortages.
Significant delays and regional shortages of food products, mainly fruits and vegetables, are occurring because transportation is finding it difficult to transport, simply for the reason of not knowing how to drive in winter conditions. "Even if you think you want to go out ... to go to the grocery store, the truth is they haven't been able to be resupplied. So, just wait," said Harris County Texas Judge Ed Emmett (Park, 2018, para.18).
There is discussion around the impact that climate has upon systems we rely to deliver food. They conclude that we must make pro-adaptive measures to infrastructure, in advance of increasing extreme weather which will result in lower costs (Schweikert, Chinowski, Espinet, & Tarbert, 2014, p.314).
To conclude, we are seeing that extreme winter conditions are affecting the ability to transport and distribute food resulting in shortages. This means shortages and rising costs for fruits and vegetables.
You are going to hear of this term as we move forward and this is “climate change adaptation.” We must think how we can adapt to ever increasing extreme weather and in terms of food, it might simply be growing some food inside your house. Next blog post we will explore indoor growing.
Derek Melting Tallow
Program Director, Secure Your Food
Cropley, J. (2018, January 4). Sustained cold crimps propane supply for some: Homeowners finding
delays getting refills. Daily Gazette. Retrieved from
Hawkes, L. (2018, January 15). Plunging temps, hard freezes trouble Texas, Mexico vegetable farmers.
Southwest FarmPress. Retrieved from http://www.southwestfarmpress.com/weather/plunging-temps-
Park, M. (2018, January 14). South sees snow, frigid temperatures and slippery roads. CNN. Retrieved
Schweikert, A., Chinowsky, P., Espinet, X., & Tarbert, M. (2014). Climate change and infrastructure impacts:
comparing the impact on roads in ten countries through 2100. Procedia Engineering, 78, 306-316.
Statistics Canada (2018). Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly)
(Canada). Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/cpis01a-
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