“The greatest challenge we face is to try and reduce the dependence on the import of grains, whether by increasing local production or whether by making more efficient use of raw materials in feeding livestock,” Mr. Simhon said in an e-mail exchange. “This must be done, despite all limitations, mainly the lack of water.”If technology will not save the day and grains must be grown, then scarce water must be expensive water. If grains are expensive, then Israel will be an attractive destination for countries willing to sell grain. With free trade, Israel would buy grain and return to growing oranges. Without it -- all bets are off.
“If the desalination and recycling projects are implemented, a lack of water is not expected in 2013,” Mr. Simhon said.
But is such an investment wise for a sector that contributes just 2 percent to the gross domestic product? Some critics suggest that Israel would be better off focusing on conservation.
Many economists are stunned at the "return to autarky" movement among countries suffering from higher food costs. As these countries restrict food exports "to protect consumers," they simultaneously impoverish their farmers and unravel beneficial trade with their neighbors. Less trade tends to make the problem worse by decreasing interdependency and thereby increasing the possibility that countries will be more hostile towards each other. Prices also rise and become more volatile as the expanse of the market shrinks. And thus, the vicious circle spins on.
Bottom Line: Politicians who claim to "protect" citizens by blocking trade are trading short term reductions in price for long-term reductions in security. To paraphrase Franklin, those who would sacrifice prosperity-through-trade for security deserve neither.
hattips to AG and DW