Written by Michael Ward
Last night we found ourselves amidst a cool ocean breeze, seated Biergarten-style, awaiting our order of Gyro Tacos and the start of trivia night at Intracoastal Brewery. We overheard the guests next to us share the reason Tom Brady un-retired and rejoined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers---rising gas prices!
This little bit of humor, however impractical, was our touchstone for non-sensical conversation topics having lots to do with the many wrong answers I put forward in our adopted team’s losing effort. Yet I found a new kernel of knowledge – the FFF system. Like that of the edible oil market and more specifically, the high-oleic sunflower oil market, that as of late, has been wholly unpredictable. So much so, that a laugh or two was the only reaction I can muster. So let us laugh a little.
The furlong-firkin-fortnight (FFF) system of impractical measurements destined to supplant the International System of Units (SI) as our only way left to better understand the roller coaster market ride we have been on since 2020. Over 50 fortnights, or half a deci-fortnight? since COVID-19 became the most dominant news segment. And while tragic, this unexplained phenomenon brought new unforeseen demand and upheaval to the market that no one predicted.
How much so? How about a few thousand firkins, or several kilo-firkins? Market demand was increasing prior to the pandemic and then it came and went….kinda went. We also were impacted by the EPA’s new Biofuels program which diverted much of the edible oils market (mostly soy) as our newest source of fuel with the unintended consequences of higher demand on other oils such as corn, canola, sunflower, and others. While we don’t use casks to transport our oil, if we did, the increase would make many an old English cask maker very busy.
The last newly learned unit of measure, the furlong, was always known but never understood by yours truly. But it might have the most applicability to our industry. Tractors probably don’t get tired and are much easier to turn, unlike oxen. So, as we ready our resources to plow mega-furlongs of sunflowers yet again, there might be less of us in the world doing it. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought with it a more global understanding of our interwoven supply chains. Sadly, this aggression has cost lives and displaced millions. Yet for some of us, this means additional impact to our market since most of the sunflower oil produced in the world comes from this fertile region of eastern Europe.
And so, for the next fortnight or two, raise a firkin to all the causes and ways, and hopefully, peace and prosperity are only a furlong away!