As the cost of oil rises, you might think one unintended (but welcome) consequence might be a shift to local production for things like fruits and vegetables. Consumers have now been conditioned to expect year-round access to foods like avocados, strawberries and Belgian endives no matter the growing season. But you might assume such luxury is being threatened by the global oil crisis. Surely the cost of transporting kiwis from Italy (now the world's largest supplier) or mangoes from Mexico or the Caribbean by air or by refrigerated shipping containers to markets as diverse as the United States, the European Union and more far-flung outposts in sub-Saharan Africa are rising to prohibitive levels? Increasing fuel prices might be just the boost proponents of the Italian-inspired Slow Food movement needs to propel it into the mainstream.
In fact, there is little evidence that food imports are being displaced by local production. The International Herald Tribune did an excellent piece a few months ago, entitled Putting Pollution on Grocery Bills, which explores how taxation policy impacts the food on our plates. But as I think about this oil crisis (well, it is only a "crisis" if you are on the wrong end of a gas pump), food, pollution and local production I wonder if it is possible to go back in time. Can we go back to a softer, gentler era where countries of the world grew their own crops to feed their own populations. What are some of the unintended consequences likely to arise from that? How about the many developing countries that are less efficient in food production--wouldn't their food prices only continue to rise? I am not sure what the answer is, today I am only full of questions.