In January I went in to my corner store to buy some beers for a taco party I was having to be shocked that their 6packs had gone up to $10+. I asked the owner, Sam, what was going on and he began to tell me about the price of flour had jumped significantly. He also owns a restaurant in the airport and was explaining how a bag of flour doubled in price from the month before. I was fed no details at the time because he was super-busy, so paid for my $12 6 pack, with tax, and went on my merry way.
It took a while to start to see this happen all over. At first I thought this was his way of making more money to keep up with the rent on Noe street until I went to Tartine for a slice of quiche to see they, too, had upped all of their baked goods prices. Bread, the staple food that was so affordable it was called peasant food, is now breaking my piggy bank.
So what is going on?? After doing some research, I sure feel like an ass for selfishly worrying about the well-being of my beer and baked goods. There’s a lot more world out there really suffering from this current problem of the wheat disease that started in Central Africa and is posing a threat to the whole world’s wheat production.
A fungus called Ug99 is the culprit for causing this wheat disease. It has already spread from Africa to Iran and is heading inward toward Pakistan. All of South Asia’s plains rely on Pakistan’s wheat production to feed their dense population. Of course there is current intense research being done to find a cure for Ug99, but right now scientist's main focus is on creating a wheat crop that is resistant to Ug99. MS Money Blog says “The disease, which is said to be a super-strong strain of black stem rust, first came to light in Uganda in 1999 and has since ruined crops in Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen. Now winds are expected to take the spores to Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Iran. Chinese scientists are said to be on a crash program to develop Ug99-resistant wheat strains before the disease ravages its already weakened croplands.”
Wheat prices have doubled in the past two years but some say it's not because of this current problem, but the problem of energy. The amount of wheat that is found in your brewsky is minimal. A bushel of wheat is $10.50 which makes it $.175 per pound- meaning if beer was pure wheat, there is .13125 dollars worth of wheat in a can of beer.
Regardless, my business partner, Andrew, and I stand firmly behind using our local, organic, and sustainable agriculture. I'm left questioning my ethics in this particular case because scientists are arguing the only way they've currently found to solve/stop this problem of a wheat disease that is posing threat to the whole world's wheat production is to genetically modify wheat. Have you ever tried a gluten-free diet? ;) There are wheat-free beers made from rice available in places like Rainbow and they're not half bad! But let's be real here and take a look at the rest of the world and the absence of Rainbow Groceries. Only we here in the great US, can opt to leave wheat out of our diets and/or to pay the price for the "pure" wheat whereas the rest of the world has no choice.
Something to ponder over as you're scanning over the new price tags, especially being an avid supporter for organic. Are there certain cases that will push our morals aside, allowing us to purchase a genetically altered ingredient or will we die holding on to the last true brew standing behind our organic promise?