Assalamualaikum w.b.t.,

Hidup di dunia yang sementara ini banyak mengabui mata kita tentang matlamat kehidupan yang sebenarnya. Kita semakin terdesak dengan himpitan kehidupan dan berlumba-lumba untuk mencari kehidupan yang lazimnya lebih menampakkan keduniaa semata-mata.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Can the world still feed itself in 2050 when the global population hit 9.6 billion?

 Well... Malaysia is an agricultural country.. Do we import food for our survival? No we don't... yes we do.. we do????


Thestar: Saturday April 23, 2011

Dr Lin See-Yan analyses how the world can feed its burgeoning population of 9.6 billion in 2050.
The world's population is likely to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 from about seven billion today, an increase of 38%, mostly concentrated in poor nations.
Today, up to one billion people are so undernourished they can't do modest manual work. Can the world be fed? That's the challenge. Food prices reflected the Malthusian vision of population rising too fast to feed itself.
Rising consumption of grains is draining global stocks fast and pushing prices to levels that fuelled riots four years ago, and widespread discontent more recently. In 2007-08, food prices soared and led some 30 poor nations to deal with food-price related riots, and Russia started to restrict exports.
Again in the summer of 2010, world wheat and rice prices spiked. Riots resumed and Russia once again banned wheat exports. The oil price is at its highest since October 2010, just shy of US$127 per barrel in early April this year. By end-2010, world food prices were already back at their July 2008 peak. Beginning in mid 2010, world grain prices exploded. Prices rose to an all time high in February this year.
High prices were among the triggers of street protests and even revolutions that recently swept North Africa where wheat dominates the region's diet. Egypt is the world's biggest importer of wheat. The Middle East import more than 50% of their wheat needs. Despite massive subsidies and price controls, high prices still filtered through to consumers, building a tinderbox for unrest and discontent. In Tunisia and Egypt, housewives are shown screaming on TV about high food prices. I believe this marks the end of cheap food.
Food supply needs to rise sharply by 2050 to feed a global population of 9.6 billion.
Supply and demand
The US role in keeping a global food shortage at bay hinges, in the short run, on the weather and harvests from US farms, the world's biggest agricultural exporter. Most expect world wheat supply to recover later this year as drought conditions ease in the Black Sea region, which should moderate prices. But the long term expectation is still for food prices to remain high. Climate change has set the stage for severe weather disruptions. Importers have limited places to shop: the US controls 55% of world trade in corn, 44% in soybeans and 28% in wheat. What lies ahead abounds in the US farm belt. February farm products price index (covering 48 commodities) was 24% higher than a year ago; but has since risen further. China gobbled up about one quarter of US soybeans crop.
Due to rising oil prices and government mandates, 40% of its corn is brewed into ethanol which a US senator described as not a green fuel: “it consumes as much energy as is used to make it, as when it is burnt.” By the time the 2011 fall harvest begins, the US is left with enough corn to satisfy only 18 days of the nation's appetite the tightest position since the Dust Bowl' era of the 1930s.
This is despite farmers producing larger record crops of wheat, soybeans and corn. Demand for corn is so strong that a 10% rise in harvest will lengthen reserves by only five days. If the long overdue drought hits the US mid-west's corn and wheat output, food prices will skyrocket again. The 1988 drought slashed US corn crop by as much as one-third. Major wheat producers (Canada, Australia and Russia) saw output fall 5.5% last year. Food demand is confronted with strained supply. High prices or shortages could further destabilise poor countries, and trigger a global scramble for scarce foodstuffs. The bad experience of '08 remains fresh.
In essence, growing global affluence underlies the squeeze. The FAO estimated wheat prices rose 60% so far this year; corn gained 92% and rice recorded new highs in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam & Bangladesh. With modernisation comes a diet change - shift from eating grains directly to consuming them indirectly as meat and dairy products.
From 2000-'30, per capita meat consumption is estimated to rise 50% in China, 80% in India and 22% in Brazil. This in turn will boost grain demand as feedstock. Research shows for cattle, it takes eight pounds of feed grains to gain one pound of beef; for chicken, it's between two to three pounds. This simply means demand for food will continue to outpace supply. In the last seven of 10 years, world wheat consumption outpaced output. Grain reserves have since grown very, very thin. I believe the era of crop surpluses is over.
What's enough?
Food supply needs to rise sharply by 2050 to feed a global population of 9.6 billion people. The FAO estimated in 1996 that the world could produce enough food to provide for everyone with 2,900 calories a day, well above the minimum required. The Lancet (a British medical journal) indicated that people need 90 grammes of meat a day (they eat more than that now). Scientists believe the world can feed itself. Allowing food for biofuels and wastage along the way, farmers are already producing enough. So what's the problem? In a 1981 essay, Harvard Nobel laureate A. Sen concluded that the main reason for famines is not a shortage of basic food but problems on wages, distribution, storage, even democracy.
This is still valid today. Part of the answer lies in prices. When output falls below demand for whatever reason, prices rise. That happened in '07-'08 and it's happening today. Volatile prices are bad for producers (not knowing what and when to invest) who need high and stable prices to keep investing; and for consumers, especially the poor who risk not affording basic food. Second, it's a daunting task to improve distribution (storage, logistics, refrigeration). Often, food is not available where it's needed most.
In the end, it's the balance between production and consumption. By 2050, another 2.6 billion mouths need to be fed, equivalent to two extra Chinas. If you add the billion odd people who are hungry today, we are talking of another three Chinas! Putting this in perspective: by 2050, world population will rise by 38%, that's much less than in the 40 years to 2010, when it rose over 80%. Consumption of wheat, corn and rice historically tracks people growth but at a higher level. So demand will add at least another billion tonnes to the two billion produced in 2005-07. That's much less than in the previous 40 years when cereals output rose by 250%.
These headline numbers do not reflect the real situation. Over time, population becomes more urban based, richer and able to afford pricier food, such as meat. So meat demand will rise strongly. In 2000, 56% of all the calories consumed in developing countries was provided by cereals, and 20% by meat, dairy and fats. The FAO estimates that by 2050, the ratio will be 46:29. To match the fast demand, meat production will need to double its current level. The FAO estimates total demand for food will rise 71% between 2006-2050, more than double the demand for cereals. That's still only half as much as the rise in food production between 1962 and '06. On paper, producing enough food to feed the world in next 40 years appear not to be more difficult than in the previous 40. Realistically, it won't be as easy simply because of yields, which have slowed down from 3% a year for staples in the 60s to about 1% today. With advances in plant genetics, producers of staples can push up growth in yields to 1.5% p.a.
The FAO estimates that in both rich and poor nations, 30%-50% of all food produced is wasted, mostly it gets rotten or thrown away uneaten. In poor countries, much food is wasted on or near the farm: mice, locusts and rats eat the crops in the field or in storage. Milk and vegetables and fish spoil in transit.
These are often regarded as losses. They can easily be reduced by one-half, equivalent to raising output by 15%-25%. But it's more an investment matter: building enough storage and silos, better infrastructure, more refrigeration, better logistics. Rich countries waste as much food as the poor ones - up to one-half of production, but differently. Studies concluded that a quarter of food from shops ends up as rubbish or thrown out by restaurants.
Top of the list are salads - about one-half is thrown away; a-third of all bread; a-quarter of fruits; a-fifth of vegetables. If the global rich waste food like the US and UK, roughly 100kg per person per year, that's equivalent to one third of the world's entire supply of meat! If this waste could be halved and distributed to where it is needed, the problem of feeding the world would be much easier. But that won't happen. Spoilage reflects bad behaviour and regulation. In the end it's a matter of prices. Food is cheap. Prices are unlikely to rise enough to change attitudes.
Can it be done?
Environmentalists believe it can't be done. Climate change, declining water tables and eroding top soils limit the possibilities. It's not just weather disruptions. With a real carbon price, farmers will commit fields in terms of carbon embodied in crops and soil. That in turn influences what they grow (perhaps elephant grass instead of wheat). Competition for crops is already keen. Then, there is disease. The return of stem rust (taken as wiped out in the late 20th century), if not dealt with properly, can prove disastrous for wheat, the most widely planted crop providing one fifth of the world's calories. Science offers the solution. Farmers and breeders need every tool including GM (genetically modified) in the constant battle against disease, predation and complacency.
There are structural problems involving market failure. Imbalances in supply and demand reflect the essence of agriculture. In 2010 global wheat harvest was the third largest of all time. Yet, supply shocks often happen, as in the summer of 2010 when harvest failure in Russia (just 8% of world wheat output) led to embargoes and panic-buying.
Markets are supposed to have acted to absorb it. But they failed. This led to headlines: “Don't trust markets”; “Food security begins at home” that are counter-productive. Self-sufficiency is grossly inefficient and shallow markets make prices more volatile. Climate change will worsen volatility. Existing proposals should be seriously considered: (i) the US, Europe and Japan should cut farm protection and release food for trading across borders; (ii) the WTO should provide some insurance against export bans; (iii) create a global system of food stocks as Keynes had proposed after WWII.
On the bright side, astonishing advances in biotechnology have since quintupled corn yields and quadrupled wheat yields. Use of “smart seeds” (making crops more resistant to weeds, bugs and drought), improved fertilisers, better irrigation and efficient farm practices have led to huge gains.
By 2030, smart seeds are expected to double the output of US corn and soybeans. These seeds are being increasingly used in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as they emerge as significant food producers, while Europe declines. The euro zone's Consumer Agriculture Policy (protection costs 55bil in '09) and the rejection of GM will soften yields further, and thus it is in danger of marginalising itself. But the US will remain the global leader.
Given the strains and politics of food, efforts to feed the world can sharpen geopolitical conflicts and speed up shifts that are already happening. So there are enough reasons to worry about food supply: political uncertainty, volatile prices, continuing waste, and hunger amidst plenty. Success depends on nature and technology restoring a better balance between supply and demand.
All said and done, I sense the emergence of a new agriculture revolution to better feed the world led by technology. Genomes of most major crops have been sequenced and benefits are being felt. BRICS and others like Indonesia and Vietnam have shown use of smart technologies and sensible policies can free more food for global trade and with some luck, they can transform themselves into bread baskets instead of being basket cases. Indeed, the consequences of failure on human suffering and political conflict are fearsome.
Obiter dictum
Readers wonder why I use a wheelchair. Reminds me of a leading Asian journal's interview with Professor Paul Johnson (bestseller: “Modern Times”) who asked Winston Churchill in 1946: What do you attribute your success in life? Churchill answered: “Conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down. And never sit down when you can lie down.” That's why.
Former banker Dr Lin is a Harvard-educated economist and a British Chartered Scientist who now spends time writing, teaching & promoting the public interest. Feedback is most welcome

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Inflation up by 2.8% in first quarter

Still manageable? I think soooooo....

Thestar: Thursday April 21, 2011

For March, inflation rose to 3% compared with a year ago while it rose a marginal 0.1% over February.
The 2.8% increase was brought about by increases in the indices of all main groups except those of clothing and footwear and communication.
Notable increases among these main groups with high weights were transport (4.4%); food and non-alcoholic beverages (4.3%) and housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (1.5%).
Other increases were alcoholic beverages and tobacco (6.4%); restaurants and hotels (5.1%); health (2.5%); education (1.9%); miscellaneous goods and services (1.4%) and furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance (1.1%).
The three main groups – food and non-alcoholic beverages; housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels and transport – together accounted for 83.4% of the overall increase recorded for the current period.

Inflation and demand to lift property prices 10%-20% this year

 Who and what to be blamed for???? Foreigner??? Summary:

1) Malaysian property prices are expected to increase at an average of between 10% and 20% this year, in light of rising inflation and increase in demand.

2) Inflation in 2010 stood at 2.2% and was at 2.4% in the first two months of this year. We expect it to be higher this year due to escalating food and oil prices,”

3) uncertainty in the Middle East. It's beyond our control and that (rising oil prices) will affect the other things,”

4)  What I believed, domino effect due to the above on the service sector will shoot household defisit to new high level. Nursery fees, tution fees, kindergarten fees, medical fees, saman fees, processing fees... what else will follow the trend? Lets see what else will be rewarded in coming days... 


Thestar: Thursday April 21, 2011


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian property prices are expected to increase at an average of between 10% and 20% this year, in light of rising inflation and increase in demand for local properties from foreigners, said Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai.
“Inflation in 2010 stood at 2.2% and was at 2.4% in the first two months of this year. We expect it to be higher this year due to escalating food and oil prices,” he said after the launch of the National Property Information Centre's (Napic) property market report 2010 yesterday.
Lim also said many foreigners were looking to purchase property here because the prices of properties were cheaper than in neighbouring countries such as Singapore.
“And Malaysia, because of the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) has attracted a number of investments from overseas. Investments last year were four times higher than 2009.
“We also expect more foreign companies to set up base here. Our Islamic banking is No. 1 in the world (so) all this will attract foreigners to come into Malaysia,” Lim said, adding that this would also contribute towards pushing up prices of properties in Malaysia.
He said rising oil prices would also cause prices to escalate.

“There's a lot of uncertainty in the Middle East. It's beyond our control and that (rising oil prices) will affect the other things,” he said adding that property prices in Malaysia were currently at a “manageable position.”

According to Napic's statistics, the Malaysian property market recorded 376,583 transactions in 2010 worth RM107.44bil.
Both the volume and value of transactions registered double-digit growth of 11.4% and 32.6% respectively from 338,089 transactions worth RM81.02bil in 2009.
Napic valuation director-general Datuk Abdullah Thalith Md Thani said 2010's (RM107.44bil) value was a new high for the Malaysian property market.
“In 2008 and 2009, we (Malaysian property market) suffered a bit. The volume of property transactions will go up (this year) but the margin will not be as high as last year.
“We had a good year last year because we rebounded from the sub-prime experience,” he said.
Abdullah added that Malaysia's fundamentals were still good, despite the uncertainties.
“People are worried about oil prices now but bear in mind, we are oil producers too. I will not say that property (by volume and value) will be better than 2010. There will be an increase. The question is the rate of increase.”

Napic expects the property market to remain promising in 2011, supported by various measures proposed under the Tenth Malaysia Plan and Budget 2011.
It said projects such as the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District, Mass Rapid Transit in Greater KL, the 100-storey Warisan Merdeka, the development of the Malaysian Rubber Board land in Sungai Buloh and the redevelopment of Pudu prison were expected to have positive spill-over effects.
Napic also said the Government's Skim Rumah Pertamaku to assist young adults to own homes below RM220,000, together with other incentives such as stamp duty exemption of 50% on instruments of transfer on a house not exceeding RM350,000 for first time buyers, would increase transaction volumes of homes in this price range.
“With the cessation of the Foreign Investment Committee's approval for the acquisition of properties by foreigners which took effect in June 2009, property investment in Malaysia will be more attractive to foreigners,” said Napic in a statement.
“Given that foreigners are only allowed to purchase commercial and residential properties priced above RM500,000, it is anticipated that more activities will be recorded in the high-end housing units in sought-after neighbourhoods,” it said.