School of Indian Cooking

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Japan Earthquake

Like everyone I am shocked by the images coming out of Japan. It's almost impossible to comprehend the human toll and the terrible trauma being suffered in the aftermath of this devastation. What's more the quake will have long term implications for people both in Japan and outside. Land use will be a massive issue - thousands of people made homeless by the tsunami (and possibly even by the nuclear radiation) will have to be housed.

The flattened coastal towns look like they will not be ready to be redeveloped for many years to come - if at all. Which makes the footage of the saline oily sludge packed with hideous debris forcing its way across prime agricultural land also very tragic. Farm land in Japan is limited and an extremely precious resource. It's too early to say how much land will be affected but some of this land may never be used again, and just when the country will need to produce as much food as possible to feed a massive homeless population. It may even have to sacrifice existing farmland to create new urban centres. Japan used to be self-sufficient in many foodstuffs but with an increasing post-war population and a shift toward high-tech manufacturing, land available for agriculture decreased, as did the number of farmers.

Japan is fortunate in one sense - it hasn't pursued a policy of self sufficiency and imports large amounts of meat, rice and vegetables. Japan will inevitably be forced to import more food to make up the shortfall from what has been wiped out - all of which will have to be grown or raised elsewhere. Japan can afford to shore up its own food security but for poorer nations already suffering from high food, oil and fertiliser prices this earthquake may cause a spike in food prices that will spread even more bad news around the world.