Be Thankful

It has been quite a year and at Christmas time I always like to remember where we have been.  Sure we certainly have our problems as farmers on both sides of the border, but for the most part over the last several years we have had good times. As we head into Christmas this coming Sunday, we all certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

The older I get the more I feel that way. It’s kind of hard to describe as increasingly I find the world a very harsh place and I consistently hope that mankind will win.  However, when I see missiles still being fired into Ukraine as well as continuing civil wars in places like Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo it gives me pause.  Can we as a global society do a lot better?  I would certainly like to think so but I’m also a pragmatist. The world is a very complicated place, and it can be very messy.

We certainly saw that this past year when the Russians invaded Ukraine on February the 24th.  Up until then we had been dealing with COVID supply shortages and a grain market that had moved significantly higher over the previous year. Then on February 24th we saw wheat prices explode along with everything else.  At the same time many Ukrainian farmers were wondering if missiles were going to be aimed at their head as they contemplated planting. Needless to say, many of us have benefited from increased prices caused by that conflict. The terrible part about it is all the loss of life. We must never forget that

There is a lot of history that is involved with this latest conflict. I have often thought that grain traders need to have an appreciation of Russian/Soviet history to really understand the Black Sea grain trade. When the missiles started firing in February, I thought that even more so. Now, the hate has grown even deeper in that region and because of that the problems will persist into the future. Who knows how that might affect our grain prices in the future.

I think it will only mean as much grain price volatility as we’ve seen in 2022 will be transferred into 2023 and 2024 and beyond.  I am not a military analyst, but I am a student of history. As I look ahead, I could see the Russian Ukraine war cause even greater grain price hikes in the future then it did in 2022.  However, I would much rather just see peace break out.  Sadly, that is such a panacea.

For most of us, we have no idea what war is like.  Before the war started, I was invited to make a zoom presentation on my thoughts about the grain market to a group of Ukrainian grading traders in Kiev.  It was a great experience for me to be asked, but now I wouldn’t feel worthy.  How could I ever appreciate what they are going through with the sounds of artillery in the background?  It would simply be a non-starter for me.

We simply have a lot to be thankful for here and it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. As many of you know I farm near the small southwestern Ontario town of Dresden. It just so happens that this area is closed to the sites of many War of 1812 battles where the Americans came up from Detroit and pillaged local farms. There was lots of death and destruction, but of course over 200 years later thankfully all of that is forgotten.  If you read the history over this time it took quite a few years for that hostility to die down against our now American friends.  In 2023 I do not expect anything such as that but at the same time this new world with all its new technologies and jealousies could spawn unwanted results.

What we want is unbridled global economic growth, which raises everybody up. Unfortunately, what we usually get is bits and pieces of global economic growth which is very specific on who rises up. Wars tend to do that as we’ve seen about a 12% decrease in Russian economic growth over the last year. And for what?

So now, as 2022 is coming to an end and Christmas Day dawns on Sunday, let’s hope for so much better. Many years ago, I told you all about my experience on a train in Comilla Bangladesh.  It was there where hungry children would beg for food from the people lucky enough to be on the train, me being one of them.  As the train left the children grew more desperate with one child being knocked down and his head hit the iron rail. He slowly got up and was crying as the train moved slowly away.  I have always wondered about that boy versus considering myself just being born in a different place and time.  Where is the justice in this world when people like him don’t have enough to eat.

That was 30 years ago this January. We’ve all moved on but of course I’ve been back to Comilla many times and I have always wondered what happened to that young little boy.  I guess that image has always burned in my mind as a reminder of my privilege position in this world. In that regard it’s somewhat a privilege to be a Canadian farmer in southwestern Ontario and when I think about the troubles in the Black Sea region, I think the same.  We here for the most part in Canada and the United States have a lot to be thankful for.