The Price of Wheat and Tea in China

I will have to admit upfront that I am not a fan of what we have come to call news reporting during the past several years. I can’t remember when I last watched the evening news on television (maybe 20 years) or read “Newsweek” or “Time” magazine—which were staples during my newspaper reporter days in the early eighties.

However, one of my major weaknesses—besides Hagen Daz ice cream—is my affinity towards the “mac paper” USA Today. I seem to buy it almost every work day and if the truth be told, head first of all to the Life Section to see what’s up in the life of all those people that I will never be and am not sure I totally approve of anyway. I like to get the latest scoop on movies, books and TV shows and this really seems like the place to land. Then I move on to the green section which is their business news and by reading that section generally have an idea of what is happening in the “real” world of stocks and bonds, business and technology. If time permits, I will often take in the sports section and keep up on what Tiger Woods is doing or what is going on in the world of tennis, baseball or biking.

Now that that dirty laundry is out in the open, I will also admit that I read the Winston-Salem Journal on occasion and that if you keep up with the news, their Saturday, March 15th paper was or was not the one to read—depending on how you look at the current state of affairs in America. It was chock full of the stuff that nobody really wants to hear about in the first place but news junkies soak up like a dry sponge during a long drought.

On the front page we read that investment bank Bears Stearns was on the verge of collapse and was bailed out by JP Morgan and in an extraordinary step, the Federal Reserve. They lost nearly half their market value (about $5.7 billion) in a matter of minutes largely because of their ties to the “sub-prime” mortgage crisis, which is still raising its’ ugly head in board rooms all across the country.

In other news we find that wheat, the food staple of most all civilized nations, has tripled in price during the past ten months. Poor wheat harvests in the U.S., Australia and parts of Europe have
caused China and other Asian countries to buy more American crops,
which are especially attractive because of the weak U.S. dollar. In addition, we are not planting as much of the stuff because lots of farmers are getting on the ethanol band wagon by growing more corn, which has also gone up in price dramatically.

And if that is not enough, along with rapidly rising fuel prices and the prospect of $4 a gallon gas by mid-summer, we find this little piece of information from Grants Pass, Oregon. It seems like fisheries have canceled the early season of ocean fishing for Chinook salmon off the coast of Oregon and Northern California because of a “collapse” of fish stocks in California rivers. Why there is less salmon to catch is up for debate but the two biggest theories are disruptive weather patterns along the Pacific coast and the increased pumping of water from the Sacramento River for farmers in Central and Southern California. Six of one and a half dozen of another is my thought.

It almost seems like it has taken several years for what we then called the Y2K effect to take place—and this recent news has nothing to do with that event but has everything in common with its’ effect.

We are being poisoned by our spinach, our beef and our dog food. There is more lead in our kids toys than ever before and people are dying because of an adulterant in their blood thinner. And I will be bold or stupid enough to ask—what’s next!

Back in the day when I used to ask a stupid question—or so thought my mom—she would say, “What does that have to do with the price of tea in China” as if I was of an age to understand all that grownup logic. I guess what she really meant was whatever excuse you just came up with for whatever it is you just did, is not that good and won’t hold up in a Chinese court of law or anywhere else for that matter (a little latitude here).

However, what my mother didn’t live long enough to see was how close China really is in economic terms to America and  that what happens over there is only a few hours from happening here as well.

I am ready to fully admit that our global economy has me baffled to some degree and the fact that Apple Computer can make more money this past year than ever before in their storied history and just because their stock didn’t “meet” their predictions and/or the investors expectations and was tanked the very next day, is simply business as usual but still confusing to me.

As to “Y2K” I firmly believe at this time that we should begin, ever so slightly, to take measures to stock up on food stuff that has a long shelf life. That we should make every effort to get out of debt and begin to live a more simple life—take more walks, watch less TV and burn less gas in the days, weeks and months to come.

At best our economy is a thought in the heart of a God who has given us the ability to “create wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). But everybody knows we can’t just keep on producing goods that no one can afford to buy in order to make our stock prices attractive to potential buyers. And yes, what about China and India and all those other nations who want to to be able to have cell phones and I pods and all the other stuff we take for granted. But it takes petroleum to “fuel” an economic burst and there is only so much of that stuff to go around and then what?

Just as George Washington Carver looked at the lowly peanut and found lots of stuff hidden inside, the answers are there—we just need to know where and how to look for them. I believe we need our eyes opened in a very practical way in the next little while in order to understand the times we are in and how to respond to them.

Enjoy your ride today—it is getting more interesting on the road we all share.

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10 Responses to The Price of Wheat and Tea in China

  1. I think you hit it right on the head here. I may need to get some tips from you and DED about how to stock up on stuff. Because I think you’re absolutely right.My one question (not that you have to answer it, but it’s in my own mind) is whether or not Jesus’ injunction not to worry about what we would eat tomorrow has any impact on this topic.I’m trying to figure that out…

  2. Terry Henry says:

    Without too much thought (and admitting that I have given it some thought) I think it will equal out. To be wise as serpents and harmless as doves is what comes to mind. There is no hysteria here: just a well informed decision to increase the size of your pantry. To fellowship more, not less. To build a community that will take care of you if you were in the process of storing up songs instead of food, etc.Will some of us find bread in the forest as our daily provision—Yes!We are communicating here because someone, somewhere dug the coal to fuel the furnace that made the electricity that allows us to surf and connect.But being in the room that has a live piano being played by a live person is so much better than a recording any day.As I look around me I know that I have accumulated way to much stuff that I have to work hard to keep under a roof to keep it from getting wet and so on.According to your faith, so be it unto you. Out faith certainly has room to get a few dollars of canned goods every week in order to prepare for the future.Thanks for stopping by…I am sure that is not all we can say but it is a beginning at least.

  3. Carey says:

    If you have a bumper crop of corn or veggies this year maybe I’ll buy some from you. And maybe this summer it would be prudent to replace our autos with bicycles?Carey

  4. Terry Henry says:

    Who is that masked man living his life out as Carey? That’s what I am saying: we need to be on the mark this year and not just a little behind. I need to keep the deer from eating my beans and corn as well.

  5. Carey says:

    Ha, ha, Tonto.See if you can believe this: We’ve still got 20 gallons of red wheat left over from Y2K! It was packed in nitrogen. I checked one bucket recently and it’s still good as new. We went back to buying wheat from the store when our “Y2K” hand-grinder broke. I was too lazy to keep grinding, and we didn’t want to shell out the $ for an electric one. So we quit grinding, and the stuff has been sitting ever since. Must have been about 2002. I told Pat we’d just save it in case Y2K decided to show up late. Maybe you’re onto sump’n. I do remember, though, several of us thought the financial meltdown would come in ’96, but of course…well, you know.C

  6. Terry Henry says:

    We’ve got several buckets of it left as well—never been opened and I think I know where the hand grinder is also. We have an attachment for our juicer that will grind wheat up pretty fine and have used that. I even have two cans of garden seeds left that are nitrogen packed—cool, eh!

  7. ded says:

    The world system organized as it is around greed has always been unstable if you took the time to scratch the surface. It appears the need to scratch to look has long past.Steve,you mention storing food…hmmmm. Yup, we’re still eating wheat grown in 1999. (Carey, the electric grinder was worth it!) According to what we read back then, wheat kept dry and safe from hungry pests with six legs or those with long tails keeps twenty years or more without any other means of extension. Canned meat keeps for years, much longer than veggies. Food stuffs that have the nutrition removed keep long periods of time as well. White rice instead of brown and white flour instead of whole wheat. But who wants less nutrition? And of course, dry beans keep years and are nutritious. A good pressure cooker turns the preparation of these into a matter of minutes instead of hours of soaking before hours of boiling.Buying oatmeal and brown rice in small bulk amounts makes sense. Brown rice lasts about six months and oatmeal a year. The benefits are reduced cost, high in nutrition and fiber, and there is some amount of supply on hand except when you are near the bottom of the last order. You just have to be disciplined about eating these regularly to prevent loss due to spoilage. Of course, as long as there is electricity, when frozen these two last much longer.Always buy multiples of items on sale that have a shelf life of a year or two. Keep these products rotated and you always have a supply of something. Oh, and buy toilet paper by the case. It is much cheaper that way and good to have on hand! (snicker) I determined a while back that even though Y2K turned out flat compared to the hype, we learned many good lessons from the experience. I even think our attitudes about community have been shaped for the better. Next, I want to develop a way to catch and hold rain water, at least for watering my flowers and tomatoes without paying the town of Boone. Do any of you know how to proceed on that one? An easy to understand book maybe.

  8. ded says:

    …don’t think about it as being worried about tomorrow’s meal. It is prudent management of God’s money. Keeping stored food on some shelves as a hedge against hunger is a foolish lack of faith, yes. Being able to lay out a table full of food for someone or many someones who are hungry is an act of love. Joseph was used by God to store seven years worth of food for an entire nation.

  9. Terry Henry says:

    Being prudent is not about storing up treasure that will be burned up and has our heart captive. I am beginning to think that this is a period of “creative challenge” that we are entering into…a period where our faith will go deeper in an around the things that we do.

  10. Marty says:

    That’s way more clever than I was expecting. Tahkns!

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