The price of oil regularly fluctuates on the world market. It is at more than $120 a barrel as I write this, up from below zero a couple of years ago. (If you don’t quite understand the math to that, join the club.) People are feeling the pain at the gas pumps.
But there is another oil crisis of which we in North America are for the most part unaware. The cost of cooking oil has soared in German grocery stores, high prices brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has brought panic buying and shortages.
When I moved from Germany to Canada last year, oil was usually between 79 and 99 Euro cents a litre in the grocery store. A month or so ago it was five Euros – if you could find any.
When stores did have oil, customers were limited to buying only a litre. (By comparison, I bought a five-litre jug of Canola oil, a size unheard of in Germany, for $15 this week – and I thought that was a little high.
I’m not sure there really was a shortage. I would have thought any oil on the shelves was last year’s harvest and the war would not have affected the supply. It is next year prices will soar. Panic buying may have had something to do with it, as it did with toilet paper two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.
I heard the oil stories from friends before we arrived in the country. Things had settled down somewhat by the time we got there in late May. Still, sunflower seed oil, the most common cooking oil, was going for €2.99 or more per litre – a huge increase from 2021.
The oil shortage highlights a growing global problem: food insecurity. Put simply, more and more people are having difficulty getting enough to eat. The situation has reached the poiint that tonight Canada’s Parliament will hold an emergency debate to discuss global food insecurity.
COVID supply chain issues have been exasperated by the war in Ukraine (the breadbasket of Europe). Inflation in western countries is raising the costs of foodstuffs, and the middle class is discovering something they may once have thought of as a third world problem is affecting them. No-one seems to have a solution.
There have already been mass migrations of people in recent years looking to escape conflict and persecution, or in search of better opportunities, but there wasn’t been much focus on those fleeing famine. That may be changing.
What happens when people are looking for food, and there is already a food shortage in the countries they are moving to?
I don’t have an answer at this point. Do you?