Saturday, April 26, 2008

Some Carbon With Your Kiwi?

First confession. The title of my bolg entry is taken from an article in the NY Times Business Day section by Elisabeth Rosenthal. The article accompanies another by James Kanter regarding making ships green. The first article goes into some depth about the growing debate over the cost of shipping all those groceries a long way across the globe so consumers can have what they want and when they want it. For example, it points out that Italy has become the leading supplier of New Zealand's national fruit (kiwi), taking over during the Southern Hemisphere's winter. The point is well made that increasingly more efficient transportation networks have lowered the costs and time period to get fruits and vegetables to market.

There is a consequence and link to carbon emissions that the international shippers would like you to not know about. The European Commission announced that freight carrying flights into and out of the EU would be included in the bloc's emissions trading program. This has many in the industry worried and becoming more vocal about costs increases being passed on to the consumer.

Further, as fuel costs go higher, the transporters are having to get more creative in keeping costs down, and the specter of having to use low-sulfur fuel is cause for even more change in the industry. Remember that article about freighters testing giant sails? My guess is we will see a lot more of those "ancient" innovations.

So, there is a link to a local news item I saw this week on television. Local small and mostly organic farmers have become more competitive and are able to make a profit and sell out of their goods nowadays. I can remember going to these markets and thinking the prices were pretty high. But the competitive nature of being local and not having tremendous shipping costs other than having to drive to town from maybe 40 miles away has shifted their fortunes. So, if there is a silver lining in anything happening with higher fuel prices, maybe this is it. If I had the time and did not have finals, I would go down and talk to these guys about their very simple business model that is working. I would also like to know if their's is a business that is thriving and paying off. The number of small farms has dwindled in this country since the 1930s, and perhaps a sea change in that trend is underway. That would certainly change the landscape of agri-business.

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