Food is likely to be a key issue out to 2030. Already long term food prices are rising as demand starts to outstrip supply. This could be a mixed blessing for Suffolk. As an agricultural county, Suffolk is well placed to benefit from the rising prices of agricultural produce. However, this benefit may not be shared generally as rising food prices squeeze the living standards of everyone and act as a tax upon consumption in general. This reduction in disposable income has the potential to keep the economy in Suffolk subdued for some time to come.
It is expected that disruptive climate change could start to become evident within the next twenty years. Rainfall could become more extreme, whilst long periods where no rain falls also become manifest. There are those who argue that we are already seeing this changing weather pattern, and warn that it could become even more extreme in the years to come. This may change our ability to produce food within the county. In turn, it could have major implications for the water infrastructure that is needed to irrigate the crops grown.
It is also expected that the impacts of peak oil could start to become evident within the next twenty years. The disruptions caused to the food distribution system caused by peak oil could mean that food is not necessarily delivered to market in a timely manner, and the possible cost of food storage could become an issue by 2030. As much of agriculture is now dependent upon products derived from oil, the possibility of the increased cost of oil is likely to have the effect of increasing the cost base of farming.
How the balance of increased crop prices and increased input costs will play upon the farming community is largely uncertain at the moment. What is more evident is that the price of food paid by consumers is set to increase. This could have all sorts of consequences, but is likely to impact upon patterns of rural crime within the county. Just as the proceeds of crime increase in value, the ability of rural policing efforts to deal with those crime patterns is set to diminish.
This is not a given future though. It is possible to act now to mitigate the more dystopian effects of this future. For example, we could encourage less waste in our consumption of food. Households could be encouraged to grow more of their own food. Communities could develop strategies of resilience to counter food poverty. There is a great deal of scope for social enterprises to act as an alternative distribution method for those in food poverty. The basic infrastructure is currently in place. All we have to do is use it to secure a better future.
© The European Futures Observatory 2012