Food shortage is one of the most pressing problems faced today by different societies all over the world. Though there is a large part of the society who can avail of having three full meals a day and a sad reality that excess food after mealtimes are sometimes thrown at the garbage, a great number of the population usually shown on the media are suffering a great deal because of hunger. Indeed, media coverage focuses on young gaunt faces and thin bodies with malnourishment slapped at the faces of viewers.
With the rotten food at the garbage can and the evidence of lack of food in the faces of hungry people, the world is confronted with the problem of global food shortage. Despite the initiatives of the government and private agencies, population, poverty, climate change, drought, increase in food and oil prices, and shortage of cropland and low soil fertility are factors that further worsen the current situation of global food shortage. Needless to say, man needs food to survive and to keep his body nourished. He needs food to stay strong to be able to attend to his tasks. He also needs food to be able to keep away from diseases and illnesses.
A proverb goes as far as saying that “we are what we eat,” which only shows how important food is to the human’s body and mental faculties. Unfortunately, there are people in some countries who do not have the liberty to eat nutritious food whenever they need to. This is a sad picture because food is a basic need that every man should have access to. The following discussions show why poor countries are suffering from hunger and food shortage. Population This scenario leads to a bigger picture. Poor countries’ lack of adequate food to feed millions of mouths is worsened by the growing number of people.
Some authors attribute food shortages to the fast-increasing world population. This is because the population growth rate is faster than the capability of agricultural system to produce food. This further leads to other problems, such as political unrest and uneven distribution of food (Pimentel D. , and Pimentel M. , 1999, p. 36). Ten years ago, 50% of the world population are said to be malnourished. The World Health Organization reported in 1996 that it was the largest number of hungry people recorded in world history. Furthermore, with the rate that the population is growing, it will grow to more than 12 billion in just 50 years.
With this pace, providing food is a difficult task for countries. As a result, the number of malnourished people would increase between four to five billion in the following years (Pimentel D. , and Pimentel M. , 1999, p. 36). As the population growth continues, natural resources are stretched to their limits. Population has also led to several other problems such as water shortage, climate change, shortage of cropland, and low soil fertility, all of which worsen the global food shortage (Population Connection, 2009). In addition, population has affected global supply. For instance, world cereal grains declined since 1983.
This is definitely a bad news, as cereal grains contributed 80% of world’s food supply. With this shortage, prices of cereal grains have increased. Countless number of people who relied on cereal grains as their basic food is faced with this dilemma. Sadly, the situation worsens each year. As the population grows exponentially, food produced increases linearly. On top of it, other problems, which in one way or another are caused by population, further threatens the capability of the world to produce food (Pimentel M. , and Pimentel D. , 1999, p. 36). Population has also given birth to consumption.
In developing countries and emerging economies, including China and Brazil, economic expansion has been the trend. These countries have experienced prosperity and changes in diets. With the global economic boom, these countries’ consumption of fish and meat has doubled since the 1990s. Furthermore, grain was removed in the marketplace, mainly due to the fact that seven pounds of grain are needed to produce a pound of meat. As a result, certain countries, such as China, shifted from being exporters to importers of corn (Insel, Turner, and Ross, 2009, p. 642). Poverty Malnutrition and poverty are interrelated.
Recent studies have come to regard poverty as a cause of rampant condition of malnutrition and hunger in developing countries. On the other hand, poverty can cause both malnutrition and hunger. Poverty often leads to more serious problems, such as inability of poor people to get out of their situation, impairment of physical and mental development, reduced capacity for work, retardation of child growth, and damage to health. To add to these problems, poor people are at a higher risk of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases (Shaw, 2008, pp. 10-11).
According to Insel, Turner, and Ross, poverty remains to be the major reason for chronic hunger among countries. Poor people lack access to food, water, and other basic needs. Poverty also hinders poor people from buying farming supplies to make their lands more productive. Moreover, it hinders them from having access to health care. Also, poverty does not only incapacitate individuals but the country as a whole. Economic development is hindered by bouts of poverty. This is especially seen on few jobs available and lack or inadequate resources to train health care providers (2009, pp. 643-644). Climate Change
Climate change is pointed as another contributing factor of global food shortage. True enough, farmers constantly deal with climate change every now and then and they are faced with variability and unpredictability regarding water supplies (Insel, Turner, and Ross, 2009, p. 642). Several studies have shown how climate change affects agriculture, although the effect differs from different areas. Climate change’s primary effect is the uncertainty it brings. Moreover, its effects will depend on “the enormity and distribution changes of the weather variables,” aside from the “climate and environmental characteristics.
It is also expected to affect how agricultural enterprises will be managed (Dinar, 1998, p. 16). A study conducted in 1995 showed different effects of climate change on farming of crops in the United States. At one point, a mild climate change did not have major effect on all crop yields. However, a more severe climate change was seen to be damaging on corn and soybean yields. In addition, it showed that southern states were affected more seriously than the northern states. The author also found out that crop prices responded accordingly with these changing climate-change scenarios (Dinar, 1998, p. 16).
Warmer climate-change scenario also leads to pests and diseases. For instance, the potato leafhopper’s population grows during this climate-change scenario. Potato leafhoppers damage soybeans and other crops in the United States. Furthermore, these pests would invade crops during the early part of the growing season. In fact, in the United States, soybeans are expected to be damaged because of the early invasion of corn earworm (Mintzer and Stockholm Environment Institute, 1992, p. 118). Diseases are also feared to affect livestock, and researches suggest that diseases confined to tropical countries may be spread to the mid-latitudes.
As an example, the horn fly can possibly spread disease during a warmer climate. In the United States alone, the horn fly caused the country to lose $730. 3 million in the beef and dairy industries. When beef cattle contract the disease brought by the horn fly, their weight gain is reduced and their milk production is reduced as well. There are also countries where damage is likely to increase. For instance, potato blight in Iceland has not greatly damaged potato crops due to the country’s low summer temperatures. When temperature becomes warmer, the disease can increase to 15% (Mintzer and Stockholm Environment Institute, 1992, p. 18).
Drought The global food shortage is spreading among countries faster than people anticipate it. While the world population grows, the capacity of the agricultural land to produce food for humans is decreased. With this scenario, it is easy to predict that at any time, the world may experience global famine. Drought could have lasting effect on humans. It could also lead to several problems, including migration. When drought season is at hand, farmers and their families tend to migrate to places aside from their homes.
As a result, the economy of their destination is affected because these places are less likely to be ready to an influx of a large number of people. The population of these destinations swells, thus further incapacitating the economy for growth. This leads to an escalation of food shortages and increase in prices. Further, the governments are forced to offer food subsidies or less restriction on imported food just to placate the urban population (Manwaring, 2003, p. 58). One thing is for sure; there will be more cases of drought in the future as caused by many factors.
Although other severe weather conditions affect land’s ability to produce crops, drought still remains as the number one natural cause of food shortages around the world. Drought also affects the supply of water, which is very fundamental for the “stability of global food production. ” If agricultural lands have adequate access to water, it can increase yields. On the other hand, lack of sufficient water will mean doom for global food security (Insel, Turner, and Ross, 2009, p. 642). Increase in Food and Oil Prices The effect that the increase in oil and food prices has on global food shortage is nothing new.
For the past years, the price of food has steadily increased. In fact, the price index increased from 9% in 2006 to 23%-37% in 2007. One of the reasons for the increase in food price is the demand (International Development Committee, 2008, p. 46). In addition, when there is an increase in the price of a commodity, the consumption is reduced. Furthermore, the upward pressure on demand for commodities, especially on crop yields such as rice, is caused by population growth. This indicates that one factor overlaps with another (Dowling, Greenfield, Fischer, 1998, p. 32).
Further predictions include an increase of 72% on demand for cereal grains between the period 1990-2020, and an increase of 60% on demand for rice. The increase is brought about by the feeding of a larger number of people. It means that the production of crops should be increased to keep pace with the demand (Dowling, Greenfield, Fischer, 1998, p. 32). However, the present condition of around the world undermines the initiatives of the governments to battle food shortage. In fact, the high prices of food could make more than 100 million individuals poorer than they already are.
This trend will continue if there is no understanding between the producer and the consumer countries. On one hand, researches pointed out four drivers of the upward pressure on demand for food. One of these is the improved living standards in certain countries such as China and India. This, in turn, leads to increased demand for meat products and for feedstuffs. The second driver is the stimulus arising from “mandates for corn-based ethanol and the ripple effects. ” Next, the depreciation of the US dollar against important currencies leads to the increase in prices of goods sold in US dollars.
Lastly, the increasing price of petroleum and other fuels also causes an increase on the products sold in the market (Timmer, 2008). The last driver, which is the rise of oil prices, is another major challenge. According to some authors, the soaring price of oil leads to the increased prices of fertilizers. For the last five years, the prices of fertilizers rose 150%. This, in turn, affects food prices. This is because the cost of fertilizer makes up more than a quarter of the cost of grain production in the United States (MacDonald, Bagchi, & Wylie, 2009, p. 215).
Furthermore, not only the prices of fertilizer increased, but also diesel used from agricultural activities such as planting, harvesting and shipping (Insel, Turner, & Ross, 2009, p. 642). Shortage of Cropland and Low Soil Fertility Shortage of cropland and low soil fertility further contribute to global food shortages and malnutrition. Hectares of agricultural lands were abandoned because of erosion which led to unproductive lands. Sadly, restoring soil to its healthy state takes longer than 500 years. To resolve this challenge, people resort to converting forests to cropland.
An estimate of 60%-80% of deforestation is attributed to this (Singh et al. , 2005, pp. 27-28). During the past decades, forests and grasslands were converted to cropland. Subsequently, cropland is converted to urban areas. Thus, there is less space dedicated to planting crops and growing livestock and poultry. According to studies, an adult can be fed on a plant grown on 0. 2 hectares of land. This can be maintained even when world population increases to 8,000. However, this is possible if crop yields around the world are the same with the crop yields in developed countries.
It means that the inputs of fertilizers and pesticides in different countries should be the same with those of North America and Europe (Singh et. al. , 2005, p. 28). As more croplands are converted to urban areas, land degradation, desertification, and low soil fertility are just around the bend. Land resources become inadequate to meet the needs of humans. When desertification sets in, it will be difficult to make the soil productive again. This is because desertification results from “complex interactions between unpredictable climatic variations and unsustainable land use practices by communities who overexploit resources.
Further, desertification leads to several disadvantages, including soil’s unproductivity and inability to recover from climatic variations (Singh et. al. , 2005, p. 29). Low soil fertility, on the other hand, is a long-term risk. It can undermine food production because in the first place, it contributes to low yields (Rotmans & De Vries, 1997, p. 341). Furthermore, low soil fertility can also lead to drought stress (Lal, & Soil & Water Conservation Society, 1999, p. 51). Despite the reality of these factors explained, there are still some people who argue that there is no global food shortage.
However, what people witness from events from different countries are evidences that there is, indeed, global food shortage brought about by factors that are interrelated. Factors including population, poverty, climate change, drought, increase in food and oil prices, shortage of cropland and low soil fertility paralyze the capacity of countries to resolve the problem of food shortage. These key drivers of food shortage have caused and further worsened one or the other factors, thus hastening the increase the incidences of food shortage all around the globe.