In chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew we find Christ’s Olivet discourse. It is Jesus teaching His disciples about Things to Come, the Last Days, and the End Times of the tribulation. In Matthew 24:4-8 He is describing things which will take place during the church age preceding the End Times described by Christ as “the beginning of sorrows.” This is comparatively descriptive of labor pains experienced by a woman in childbirth, an ever-increasing in intensity series of events which will culminate during the End Times at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. There are several kinds of world-changing crises described in this passage; such as war, earthquakes, pestilence, and famine.
In today’s update I’d like to concentrate on famine.
Within this subject I think we find a couple of areas of concern. First of all, famine is a direct result of the inability to produce food to be consumed, and secondly it can be the result of the inability to procure food to be consumed. Let us explore these areas of concern a little further.
1. First, some of the reasons restricting food production:
- the weather
- not enough moisture or
- too much moisture
- extreme temperature
- availability of seed stock
2. Second, procurement issues:
Having established a framework for the examination of the subject of famine, I began to research news articles, weather reports, and crop reports, from various sources and governments to establish a baseline for a discussion of the subject. What I have come up with, is at the least disconcerting, and is quite possibly, truly a cause for alarm.
First of all let me say that I am not a proponent of the hyperbole of climate change, either “Global Warming” or a coming “Ice Age,” as the catalyst for the events I’m about to describe. In fact, I believe that since the Genesis flood, the Earth’s weather has maintained a cyclical ebb and flow established by God. And, while I believe it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the creation within which God has placed us, I do not believe man has the capability to permanently destroy God’s creation, and that the Scripture teaches that He alone will accomplish this in preparation for eternity future. That having been said, within the framework of God’s dealings with man, there are many instances throughout Scripture where weather, climate, and geography have been used by God to affect change in mankind. I believe that is what we’re beginning to see again today, as we are clearly living in the prophetic Last Days.
Worldwide production of protein, fruits and vegetables, and grains are increasingly falling behind demand. In some parts of the world these have been destroyed by extreme cold temperatures, while in others it has been either flood or drought which has affected production. During the last two winters in the US, China, and Russia, livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) numbering in the tens of thousands have been lost due to blizzard and extreme cold; while in Africa, Australia, and parts of Asia thousands have been lost due to drought. Production of fruits and vegetables worldwide in 2014 is expected to be reduced by as much as 35% to 40% due to the effect of weather on the climate, in comparison to 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, worldwide grain production in 2014 is expected to be affected in the same percentage range, again mostly related to the weather, although political and military conflict will be responsible in some areas to a lesser degree. All of this will result in higher food prices worldwide in 2014, in food shortages in some countries, and famine will begin or continue to grow more widespread in others.
Currently there are protein and vegetable shortages in Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Cuba, Thailand, Indonesia, as well as Eastern Europe and 90% of Africa. Food Grain Shortages continue to grow in the Middle East, Africa, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia, Russia and in Eastern Europe. Sociologists tell us that there is a direct correlation between food prices and shortages, and civil unrest. These shortages have already resulted in food riots in Venezuela, Thailand, Cameroon, Mali, Libya, and other African nations since the beginning of 2014. The cost and availability of food has been the common denominator in each of these situations, and food riots have been at the root of political and social change throughout history. We can only expect this discontent to continue to grow throughout 2014 and beyond. The simple fact is that the world’s increasing population and demand for food has outstripped its capability (for a number of reasons which I will not go into in this article) for production of same.
Here in the United States nearly 50% of the country is experiencing severe drought. Much of California has been in drought conditions for the past three years. And in fact, 100% of the state of California (where upwards of 85% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in this country, and made available for export are produced), is experiencing extreme drought, with nearly one-third of the state experiencing exceptional drought. Exceptional drought is defined as a condition which will alter the area’s ability for production over an extended period, possibly even years. Because of the lack of water for proper crop production, estimates are that as much as one-third of California’s tillable acreage will remain unplanted in 2014. This will result in as much as a 35% to 40% reduction in vegetable and fruit crop production. Currently, wildfires (which have started much earlier than normal and are being fed by vegetation left dry from prolonged drought) are raging over much of Southern California, driven by Santa Anna winds. Weather forecasters are expecting these conditions to only worsen as California, the Southwest, and Midwest are facing an El Niño weather system over the next 12 to 24 months.
As much as 50% of the state of Texas is also suffering from severe drought with approximately 50% of that area being labeled as extreme. These severe drought conditions extend northward from west Texas through western Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, and western Kansas. Late winter freezes coupled with early extreme spring temperatures and the lack of moisture damaged or destroyed much of this region’s winter wheat crop. It is estimated that there may be as much as a 30% to 35% loss in grain production throughout the Midwest and Southwest because of these drought conditions.
While drought in the US is concentrated in California and the Plains states; Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Appalachian region in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee are also experiencing abnormal dryness. There are approximately 90 communities in Texas and approximately 60 communities in California who reportedly have less than a 60 day supply of drinking water available to them as of the 15th of May. Unless you live out West, you may not realize the seriousness of the drought conditions and the potential for dust bowl conditions, such as were experienced during the 1930’s, to return.
Another result of the ongoing drought in the US is; because of the shortage of water to produce grass and grain for livestock, the number of cattle in the United States has been in decline for the past seven years and is the lowest it has been since 1951. Cattlemen and dairymen both have reduced the size of their herds by selling off everything of a marketable age and culling deeply into their numbers of reproducing females. While this initially caused beef prices to moderate somewhat, it has now resulted in what will be an ever-increasing rise in the cost of beef for the consumer, until conditions favorable to increased herd numbers returns (typically 6 to 9 years of production are needed to increase herd size). Over the past year, the price of ground beef is up 5.9 % while other cuts have experienced increases as much as 9.5%. We can only expect these prices to continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
While we are on the subject of meat, last month meat prices across the board rose at a faster pace than at any time during the past 10 years. Drought, while a factor, is not the only thing driving higher meat prices. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus has spread into at least 30 states and killed approximately 7 to 8 million pigs. At this time there is no known vaccination to combat this disease and until one is developed there is a possibility that as much is one half of the pork industry will be affected. The price of bacon has already risen by 13.1%, while ham and other cuts are rising by similar percentages. Projections are that U.S. pork production could be down by more than 10 % this year, and overall pork prices will be up 20 % or more by the end of 2014.
Fish and seafood protein prices have also recently risen due to drought, environment and disease. Drought conditions have affected fish farms in several states with Texas being the hardest hit because of the lack of water. Seafood production from commercial fishing has been affected in the Pacific because of rising concerns over contamination resulting from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. And the price of shrimp is up due to a disease known as “early mortality syndrome” which has affected farmed shrimp production in Southeast Asia. While overall fish protein prices have risen by about 9.5% in the past 12 months, shrimp prices have risen by 61% (no, that is not a typo).
As prices for shrimp, pork and beef have risen, many consumers have turned to poultry for more of their protein purchases. However, the price of poultry is rising rapidly as well. In fact, the price of chicken breasts has risen by 12.4% over the past 12 months, and whole turkey prices have risen by approximately 8%. Unfortunately, this could just be the very beginning of the meat and protein crisis in the United States.
It is estimated that the US has a four-week supply of nonperishable foods stockpiled for distribution at any one point in time. However any interruption to that distribution system could have disastrous effects. This has been alarmingly in evidence in just the past 12 to 24 months in the aftermath of tornadoes, hurricanes, and snowstorms. It is estimated that Great Britain and the European Union have only a two-week stockpile.
The growing concern over the cost and availability of food in the United States has coined a new research term; Food Insecurity. A recent report estimates that nearly 50 million Americans are food insecure as a result of declining incomes, job loss, and lack of availability. Approximately 16 million of those affected are children under the age of 16. As this nation’s true effective unemployment numbers hover between 20% and 23% of the population, and millions of Americans are now dependent on food stamps, increasingly the price of food is outstripping the ability of many to pay for it. Rising food prices, not to mention a rising overall cost of living, has become an overwhelming concern for many families who at best are living paycheck to paycheck. Tens of millions of people in this country are struggling to feed themselves. In light of this, even the slightest economic shock in this country could have devastating repercussions on many families.
Will rapidly rising food prices and the possibility of food shortages cause civil unrest in the United States? While it may not happen tomorrow, it is a very real possibility in the not-too-distant future. Because of this possibility or even eventuality, I believe it is important (especially for Christians) to begin stockpiling food (if you haven’t already) to feed your own family, and begin gardening (if you haven’t already). Many of us can remember, or have been told, that our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents knew the wisdom of having a well-stocked food pantry and a well-organized garden plot. It would behoove us to learn from their example.
As Christians, as a part of the True Church, we have a responsibility to do what we can to protect ourselves and provide for one another. As difficult as times might get, we can find comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” And in Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:31-33 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Nevertheless, it is quite possible that life is going to become much more difficult in the days ahead, especially for followers of Jesus Christ. Until He comes to rapture His Church we need to be prepared to endure hardship, remembering always that;
Jesus is Coming Soon!