Global Food Crisis

“We appeal as human beings, to human beings. Remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise, if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
-Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, 5 April 1955
“A hungry person listens neither to religion nor reason nor is bent by any prayer”
Seneca, 2000 years ago
Global Food Crisis
The United Nations has recently said that it is facing a “dangerous and unprecedented” shortfall in budgetary allocations for its World Food Program (WFP) that is likely to affect food aid to millions of hungry poor in many countries.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said this was mainly because the needs which greatly increased last year due to the increased food crisis just as the numbers of hungry was rising amid global economic crisis.

Scenario of Current Global Food Crisis:
  1. World Food Programme is expecting to receive USD 3.7 billion– instead of the ” assessed approved needs” of USD 6.7 billion.
  2. This program hoped to reach 108 million persons in 74 countries this year.
  3. The lesser receipts were because the pledged donations were not made good by the donors as the WFP is funded through voluntary contributions, most of which come from governments.
  4. Besides , the drop in donations this year was in part due to tight government budgets following bailout packages after the global financial crisis accelerated in late 2008, triggering the worst recession in decades.

Few More Points:

  1. In Bangladesh which is home to some of the world’s hungriest persons, the WFP sought to feed five million this year, but must now could help only one million. Its program set up to give lunch to 300,000 school children will reach to only 70,000.
  2. Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations for their $20-billion pledge to boost global food security made earlier this month at their summit held in Italy.
  3. Latest stats from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicated food prices were higher now than a year ago, at the height of the global food crisis, in more than 80 percent of the third world.
  4. For the first time in history, 1.02 billion persons are undernourished worldwide, up from 60 million just two years ago.
  5. One out of every six today is on the official list of the urgently-hungry.
  6. One-third of the world’s children in the developing world is stunted.
  7. Sheeran has highlighted the crucial role the WFP was playing in reducing hunger in the developing world, where 80 percent of countries lacked a food safety net.
  8. United States which is the world’s largest food aid donor providing approximately half of all food aid to vulnerable populations in the world–was “leading the way” in aid relief.
  9. Between 2005 and 2008, the price of wheat and corn tripled worldwide , and the price of rice climbed fivefold, spurring food riots in nearly two dozen countries and pushing 75 million more people into poverty.
  10. This price spike came in a year when the world’s farmers reaped a record grain crop.
  11. The high prices were a symptom of a larger problem tugging at the strands of our worldwide food web.
  12. Between March 2007 and March 2008, global food prices increased an average of 43 per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
  13. During that time period, wheat, soybean, corn, and rice prices increased by 146 per cent, 71 per cent, 41 per cent, and 29 per cent, respectively, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
  14. Rising food prices contributed to a significant increase in food insecurity worldwide, particularly among poorer populations.
  15. Approximately 1 billion people — or one sixth of the world’s population — subsist on less than $1 per day. Of this population, 162 million survive on less than $0.50 per day.
  16. In June 2008, the US Congress provided $770 million to USAID as part of the President’s Food Security Response Initiative for international disaster and development assistance to address the needs of food insecure populations worldwide.
  17. Of the total, $590 million represented funding for emergency humanitarian programming through USAID/OFDA and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, with remaining funding designated for development assistance through USAID’s Bureau of Sub-Saharan Africa and Bureau of Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade.
  18. A high-level conference on World Food Security has been convened by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome from June 3-5, 2008. The conference is in response to the growing global food emergency arising partly from the steep escalation in the price of fossil fuels and partly from weather aberrations. The conference will consider both the pressing problems of today and the emerging problems arising from climate change and diversion of pr ime farmland for the production of bioenergy.

Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) of World Bank

  1. World Bank Group set up the Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) in May 2008 to provide immediate relief to countries hard hit by food high prices. The Bank response has been articulated in coordination with the United Nations’ High-Level Task Force on food security. Through its response, the Bank is supporting the implementation of the joint Comprehensive Framework for Action.
  2. The World Bank Group increased GFRP to $2 billion in April 2009 to provide immediate relief to countries hard hit by food high prices.
  3. The money is used to feed poor children and other vulnerable groups, provide for nutritional supplements to pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants and small children, to meet additional expenses of food imports or to buy seeds for the new season.
  4. GFRP has disbursed $757.6 million out of $1151 million in 33 countries as of June 11, 2009. An additional $49.4 million is being earmarked for programs in 9 countries.
  5. The Bank also created a new Multi-Donor Trust Fund to facilitate the involvement of partners to support GFRP. As of April 2009, the Bank has mobilised $189 million in external funds for activities under GFRP.
  6. These funds will be provided as grants to 16 countries.
  7. Bank and International Finance Corporation are completing a feasibility study on a crop insurance pilot for maize small farmers.

India & Global Food Crisis:

  1. There was a major hue & cry triggered by former US President George W Bush said in 2008, that prosperity in countries like India has initiated the demand for better nutrition.
  2. Another statement that came from USA was that ‘apparent improvement’ in the diets of people in India and China and consequent food export caps is among the causes of the current global food crisis.
  3. Bush argued that there are many factors for the present crisis, only one of which was investment on biofuels like ethanol.
  4. Reducing hunger and poverty by half by 2015 is the first among the U.N. Millennium Development Goals , which is basically a Global Common Minimum Programme for Sustainable Human Security and Peace.
  5. However most developing countries, including India, are not making that much advance in achieving even this very modest target.

Outcomes & Solutions of Global Food Crisis:

Excerpts from Article by Dr. MS Swaminathan on Global Food Crisis

  1. The widespread social unrest in many parts of the world is partly due to the growing rich-poor divide in entitlement to the minimum purchasing power essential for household nutrition security.
  2. Compounding the problems arising from poverty and unemployment are the new threats to human security arising from the rising cost of petroleum products and the consequent diversion of land and crops for fuel and feed production.
  3. The solution lies in improving the productivity and profitability of major farming systems in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  4. In most developing countries affected by high food prices, agriculture is the main source of rural livelihoods. So, these countries should initiate steps to take advantage of the vast untapped production reservoir existing with the technologies available and thus build a sustainable food security system based on home grown food.
  5. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the average yield of food crops like sorghum, maize, millets and grain legumes is less than 50 per cent of what can be achieved.
  6. Most of the farms in the developing countries of Asia are small in size, often less than two hectares. The smaller the farm the greater is the need for marketable surplus in order to get some cash income.
  7. Carefully planned agricultural progress can help to create simultaneously more food, income and jobs. It is only agriculture, including crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and agro-processing that can promote job-led economic growth.
  8. Modern industry, in contrast, promotes jobless growth, which will lead to joyless growth in population rich nations.

Besides responding to the immediate food needs, the global community should help nations affected by the food crisis in the following areas:

  1. Help to launch a Bridge the Yield Gap Movement in order to close the gap between potential and actual yields in the major food and feed crops through mutually reinforcing technologies, services and public policies.
  2. Strengthen the rural infrastructure particularly in the area of post-harvest technology including processing, storage, value-addition and marketing.
  3. Give the highest priority to providing small farm families with opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing at the time of harvest; small farmers are more concerned with present trading than futures’ trading.
  4. Ensure that the ongoing Doha Round of Negotiations in WTO results in methods of promoting free and fair trade. This will involve cutting down of heavy farm subsidies by industrialised nations and providing more income earning opportunities for developing countries through trade.
  5. The agriculture of industrialised nations is energy intensive, while most of the traditional agricultural practices in developing countries are knowledge intensive. Therefore, developing nations should not take to the path of energy intensive agronomic practices but should refine the traditional methods of soil health enhancement and pest management and blend them with modern technology.
  6. Also, developing nations should fully harness their vast animal wealth. India for example, has over 20 per cent of the world’s cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat populations. It will therefore be prudent to promote crop-livestock integrated farming systems, rather than monoculture of the same crop and variety.
  7. In this way, the global energy and food crises have opened up uncommon opportunities for developing nations to promote conservation farming and sustainable rural livelihoods. This will help them to achieve an evergreen revolution leading to the improvement of productivity in perpetuity without associated ecological harm.
  8. Population rich, but land hungry countries like India, China and Bangladesh, have no option except to produce more per units of land and water under conditions of diminishing per capita arable land and irrigation water availability, and expanding biotic and abiotic stresses.

with inputs from The hindu, fox news, rediffbusiness

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  • abhijeet gaurav

    Dear sir,
    This was a very informative article. Thanks for your help in sharping our knowledge-razor. Can you please give some insights in the Natural gas sector policy in india and the ongoing Krishna-Godavari basin dispute.

  • Anonymous

    sir could you give article on cooperative agriculture system, whether it is useful or not.