Can You Afford To Eat?

Well, of course you can. What an absurd question. Most of us in the Western world have never in our lifetimes had a problem getting enough to eat or, for that matter, paying for it. Words like "famine" do exist on the periphery of our vocabularies, but they apply only to news reports on Somalia or Ethiopia, not us.

But the First World is in for a change and both the availability and the cost of food will be changing with it. A question as absurd as the one above may within a year become a reality for many people.

In a previous article in International Man, we dealt with the likelihood of food shortages in North America and Europe and how that situation was likely to manifest itself. These are likely to occur as a bi-product of existing unmanageable industry debt, plus hyperinflation.

To make matters worse, the First World will soon face other factors that may diminish availability and increase the cost of food generally, both at the same time.

Over the years, whenever I have been asked how to choose a country for repatriation, one of my first suggestions is, "Check out the availability of food. Go to the supermarket in the country you are considering and imagine that you are buying your weekly groceries. In fact, take a sample shopping list with you. Find out what items you can get there and what items you would have to do without." It may seem surprising, but when people are choosing a new country, this one critical factor is almost never considered.

No matter where you go, some items that you regard as basic will not be basic in the new country. Additionally, most of the brands you are accustomed to will be supplanted by brands that you are unfamiliar with. North America and Europe are blessed with very high quality consumables. In my experience, while possibly 50 - 70% of these items have their counterparts in other countries, they may not be of the same quality. Tomato sauce in Argentina bears little resemblance to tomato sauce in the US. Is it safe to eat? Yes. Will you like it? Maybe not.

In addition to going through your shopping list at the supermarket, stop to read the labels. Yes, this means spending probably an extra hour in the supermarket, even though you are just there to check out the availability of goods, and not buying anything. However, reading the labels to see where the products are made will provide you with a wealth of important information.

Throughout Central and South America, you will find that most everything comes from a Spanish-speaking country. In Panama you will find Corona Beer from Mexico, cans of vegetables from Ecuador and paper towels from Colombia. In Uruguay, you will find that about 85% of all goods on the shelf are made in Uruguay, with about 10% from Argentina and the rest from Peru, Ecuador, etc. You will also find in each of these countries that some American brands like Hershey's chocolate and Coke are readily available. Read the labels and you will find that they are in fact made locally, "under license" by the American mother company.

Here's what you learn by going through this exercise. Let's say you are moving to Chile.

  • The more goods that are actually produced in Chile, the less Chile is under the thumb of foreign interests. (If, say, the US is not a major supplier of goods to Chile, it cannot hold the Chilean government's feet to the fire by threatening to cut off supply.)
  • The more goods that are actually produced in Chile, the less likely that Chile is to be impacted by the economic downfall of other countries. (If suppliers in, say, the US either downsize dramatically or go out of business, it will have little impact on shoppers in Chile.)
  • The more goods that are actually produced in Chile, the shorter the delivery distance and therefore the greater the likelihood of well-stocked shelves during difficult times. (If, say, the shipping industry in Mexico is negatively impacted by the Depression, Chile will not be without specific products due to a breakdown in long-distance delivery.)
  • Goods that are produced "under license" are likely to remain available even if an economic crisis overseas destroys the overseas mother company. (Even if Pepsi Cola were to shut down in the US, the company in Chile that produces Pepsi for local consumption is likely to continue doing so.)

The same situation plays out elsewhere in the world. One of Europe's strengths for hundreds of years was that, whenever one country's government made a mess of their economy, the rest of Europe would simply pull goods from the other countries. Today, the EU has converted Europe into an "all or nothing" behemoth. For the first time, it is possible for the entire continent to fail together.

As the first world unravels, many population centres and even entire countries may find themselves with food shortages. The country you have chosen to reside in may be doing well, but the country that has been supplying products to your supermarket may be in trouble. This would be exacerbated by the likelihood that the selection would become erratic, i.e., plenty of peanut butter, but no bread.

To further exacerbate the problem, the country that has been the supplier may very well be experiencing hyperinflation. Therefore, California orange juice may actually be available in Western Canada, but it may cost $30.00 a quart. (Can you afford to eat? Maybe not.)

If you are considering a move away from an economically, politically and/or socially risky area, it would not only be a good idea to check out the availability of goods in the supermarket of the destination you are considering; it might be wise to check out the labels in the supermarket where you now live, to learn where the food you eat actually comes from.

[If you're going to successfully internationalize - whether assets, income or personally - you'll need some good resources to do it. Join us at the International Man Network and gain access to our library of useful reports on a wide range of diversification topics from moving gold overseas or finding an international broker to getting set up on the ground in a number of different countries around the world. Click here to join.]

Tags: economic collapse, chile,