Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Food Shortages?

My friends in Kuwait are complaining about the price of tomatoes. The price of tomatoes in Kuwait?? Can a Kuwaiti cook without tomatoes?? 😉

I remember when suddenly, rice, a reliable cheap staple, suddenly went through the roof, and then, disappeared from the shelves when India announced a shortage and refused to export Indian rice. Kuwait, and other Gulf countries, announced they were buying unused farmland in other countries to insure their food supplies. But tomatoes? I thought everyone in Kuwait grew tomatoes, at least in winter.

And then, today, I saw this article on creeping food shortages:

Another lackluster monthly jobs report took center stage Friday. Stocks rallied, and government bond yields remained at rock-bottom levels as investors anticipate more action soon by the Federal Reserve to drive down interest rates even further.

Reports about how much slack the U.S. economy still needs to work through — like unemployment — understandably get the spotlight. But investors may be overlooking an even bigger story as the developing world stages a sharp rebound: Shortages of items like food and commodities are once again becoming a major concern.

Prices for agricultural commodities spiked so much on Oct. 8 that they triggered daily movement limits on the Chicago exchange. Options markets saw prices for commodities like corn soar more than 13% during the day following reports of supply shortages around the world.

Commodity-oriented exchange-traded funds like the PowerShares DB Agriculture (DBA) leaped as well. The ETF surged almost 10% over the previous week, with more than 6% of the gains registered on Friday alone.

Supply and Demand Discrepancies

A sharp shortfall in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s corn production forecast, due to poor weather patterns, also helped set prices soaring around the world. U.S. corn crop yields would come in 4% short of prior estimates and drop to their lowest levels in 14 years, the Agriculture Department said.

Fears of commodity shortages in the face of surging global demand are leading to export-slashing. Ukraine announced a sharp cutback in the amount of commodities like wheat and barley it would allow to be shipped out of the country. The likelihood of a major discrepancy between supply and demand have led to surging prices worldwide. European wheat prices rallied 10%, with other commodities, such as soybeans and cotton, climbing as well.

Still, investors should be cautious because commodity prices are known to be extremely volatile and difficult to put a price on.

Fundamental Forces

Nevertheless, rising prices are creating alarm about humanitarian concerns. Morgan Stanley (MS) and the U.N. have warned about the prospects of a rerun of the 2007 food crisis that slammed the developing world.

See full article from DailyFinance:

As we drove across the United States this summer, we saw acres and acres of US farmland, unworked, for sale. Farming is a tough life, and fewer and fewer families are still farming. It’s scary and sad.

October 11, 2010 - Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Shopping, Social Issues


  1. Sultan Center has been selling tomatoes at 1KD/kilo. However, TSC is also suffering from the problems faced by Agility and the loss of the food contract to troops in Iraq. Lots of items are MUCH more expensive in TSC – leaving many of us to go to the less-expensive co-ops and vegetable markets.

    BTW if anyone is looking for great produce prices in Kuwait, go to the enormous bulk veggie market on 604 toward Kabd (6th Ring Rd North to 604/Kabd, right at first round-about).

    Comment by Desert Girl | October 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. Aha! Desert Girl, thank you. I could not understand how there could be a tomato shortage. I always shopped vegetables in the local co-op, unless it was something they didn’t carry. There is a big Sultan Center warehouse kind of shop in Mangaf, back off that street that goes from Fehaheel to Mangaf in the back, maybe it is Mecca street? Nearby, there is a huge open garden area where they also sell fresh, local grown produce, but mostly greens I think, I haven’t seen tomatoes . . .

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. There are a lot of veggie markets around, like the older one at Charcoal Circle (“Dawar Fahem”) in Shuwaikh; and Jamal Center in Rigae across from the new Lulu Hypermarket.

    People are creatures of custom; we tend to gravitate to places that we know and feel comfortable with – like Sultan Center. Kuwaiti families do the bulk food thing. There are lots of less expensive and/or bulk food places around – including many off-the-beaten-track grocery stores (Shuwaikh and other places) with unfamiliar (to most Westerners) brands. It is really worth it to seek them out. Huge price differences.

    My girlfriends and I have started buying large quantities of produce at the bulk markets and then splitting them between us.

    Inflation in Kuwait rose 4.7% in July. I don’t know what the latest statistics are, but I can tell you that many grocery stores and restaurants have had to raise their prices.

    Comment by Desert Girl | October 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. Intlxpatr :

    Quick can you send me the latest GM (genetically Modified ) Tomato seeds ,the kind that yields 1 kilo per tomato , 10 kilos per plant and grows in a week on 1 cup of water .

    * For easy conversion multiply the Kilo value by 2 you get the Pounds figure

    On another serious note in Egypt and man threw his wife from the balcony because she asked (nagged ???) for an increase of the house daily allowance due to the fact of the raising tomatoes prices

    Comment by daggero | October 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. Thanks, Desert Girl. 🙂 You are right, we get in our comfort zone and don’t make the effort to stretch. Most of my Kuwait friends buy their veggies by the box in Schuwaik; you have the right idea sharing with a friend. I just can’t use that much; it would go to waste. 4.7% inflation, holy cow.

    Daggero, you are hilarious. I would love to send you some of our heirloom seeds; you would have a lot of fun trying them in Kuwait. 🙂 It’s tough times everywhere on people trying to keep their spending under control when the basic commodities go up so drastically.

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 12, 2010 | Reply

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