Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An International Recipe

Pork and Beef from NotCanada: Canada has been so kind as to regularly invite the neighbors over for a good old fashioned meat inspection. It saves time and transaction costs to have US inspectors give an opinion or two on Canadian meat products, many of which are subsequently sold south. Normally the inspectors find some problems at a few individual plants and make some friendly recommendations. This time around, the problems they found were far more systematic, the government had failed to follow up on problems noted in the last inspection, the government had also failed to follow its own manuals at plant level, and 6 of Maple Leaf's plants (Canada's largest meatpacker) were either banned from shipping to the US or served notice that they would be banned if they didn't clean up at once.

Quinoa from Bolivia: Once pushed aside by Spaniards in favor of wheat,quinoa's rising popularity among foodies has increased its price seven fold since 2000 even as production increased tenfold. The increasing price, however, has led farmers to export the vast majority of their crop and instead eat rice and beans, lowering the families' nutritional wellbeing. Bolivia and Peru produce 97% of the world's quinoa. Farmers say it is not lifting them out of poverty, but they are living better.
President Evo Morales' government has deemed quinoa a "strategic" foodstuff, essential to this poverty-afflicted nation's food security. It is promoting the grain and has included quinoa in a subsidized food parcel for pregnant women....
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) provides 10 essential amino acids, is loaded with minerals and has a high protein content — between 14 and 18 percent. The FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization) says it is so nutritious it can be substituted for mother's milk.

"This food is about the most perfect you can find for human diets," said Duane Johnson, a 61-year-old former Colorado State agronomist who helped introduce it to the United States three decades ago.

Quinoa isn't a cereal. It's a seed that is eaten like a grain, but is gluten-free and more easily digestible than corn, wheat, rye, millet and sorghum. And it can be substituted for rice in just about anything — from soup to salad to pudding to bread.
Onions from India: A delightful article on the political economy of very particular foods and the importance of keeping the urban middle-class happy, rather than farmers.
You might find it hard to believe, but high prices of onions can trigger the fall of the government in India. In 1998, a supply side shock led to a sharp increase in onion prices in the country and most notably, in the state of Delhi. In the following elections, the ruling party was routed in large part due to its failure to control the price of onions in the capital state. Today, onion prices in India are up again, rising by over 100% in just three weeks in December [and the government has responded in short order.]
Commenters complain, however, that onions are in fact a staple and affect the welfare of the poor greatly. (Eg.: "For many poor people in the villages Onion is the only item eaten with bread.")

Beans from Malawi?: Scientists are arguing that the Malawi government should encourage farmers to plant beans (pigeon pea, actually) with their maize to reduce the cost of Malawi's fertilizer subsidies. Pigeon pea fertilizes the ground so fertilizer costs are cut in half, improves the productivity of the synethetic fertilizers that are used, and stabilize and increase production. Currently the talk is of complementing fertilizer rather than removing them.

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