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Increasing Global Food Crises- Focus on Developing Nations

This report provides background on the link between nations in protracted crisis and their current shortage of readily available food. It gives the Socio and Economic impact that the current food crisis is having on the world as well as a brief outline of the programs and organisations working to aid those countries in need.

How Countries Fall into Protracted Crisis

Protracted crises are defined, in an FAO report, as environments in which a significant proportion of the population is acutely vulnerable to death, disease and disruption of livelihoods over a prolonged period of time. According to the FAO, food shortages most commonly manifest through protracted crisis.

Acute causes of food crisis resulting from protracted crisis

DiMario’s essay states that 98% of malnourished and food insecure people come from developing nations (refer table 1), due to a few main causes.

A report by the Anglican Alliance in 2010 said that food shortages could result from the misappropriation of resources by a nation’s government. The rising cost of food prices, globally, can sway a government on how they allocate their resources. An example would be when a country exports large quantities of food goods rather than satisfying their domestic needs first.

The entire food supply chain, in some developing nations, can often be the cause for excessive wastage. This is caused by inadequate utilities to keep product stored correctly, insufficient or inappropriate transport vehicles (non-refrigerated trucks for meat etc.) down the line to unsanitary storage conditions at the products retail outlet (DiMario, 2008).

According to UNICEF, another cause of food shortage is climate. Drought, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, can kill an entire community’s livelihood. It destroys livestock, dries out water wells and causes agriculture to stunt. An example, the East-African drought, currently endangers 13 million lives (2012).

Facts and Statistics About Food Crisis

Facts to know about global food shortages and famine

  • 925 million people don’t have enough to eat.
  • Hunger is the world’s number 1 health risk. Killing more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
  • One in seven people, globally, are food insecure.
  • 65% of the world’s hungry live in seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
  • The Asia and Pacific regions are home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people.

Source: FAO news release, 2010.

Nations with food shortages

As classified by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), currently 22 nations are in a protracted crisis of some nature. Of these 22 nations, all have food shortages and are unable to cope under their own governance.

Each year the FAO and the WFP, release a joint report, outlining the state of food insecurity in the world. Nations deemed to be in a state of protracted crisis by the report are: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Central African republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Enitrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Nations, grouped by global regions, currently in protracted crisis

TABLE 1       (Statistics sourced from FAO report, 2010)



Effects of Food Shortages

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) uses three levels of criteria to assess countries impacted by food shortages. IFPRI looks at the effects nationally, in the household and upon the individual

   National criteria

  • Monthly or weekly prices in key markets for staple foods, fertilizer, fuel, and other commodities that are important to households.
  • Estimates of the cost of shipping imported commodities from international markets and shipping export commodities to their final destination.
  • The consumer price index.

(IFPRI report, 2008.)

Household criteria

  • Information on the price changes of important goods and services.
  • Information on the composition of household expenditure.
  • Information on the composition of household income.

(IFPRI report, 2008)

   Individual criteria

  • School enrollment by age and gender, collected by primary and secondary schools).
  • Attendance at health clinics by age and gender, collected by clinics.
  • Nutritional status by age and gender, collected by clinics or from nutritional surveys.

(IFPRI report, 2008)

Table 2 Welfare impact of food crisis (Sourced from IFPRI report, 2008)

table food markets

National Effects

The IFPRI report (2008) states the hardest hit national sectors, during food shortages, are the local commodity and labour markets. Other peripheral effects are fiscal balance, external balance and political activity.

Local markets: 

Commodity Markets

A predictable effect ripples through local commodity markets as food shortages worsen in developing nations. In Geman’s book, she says basic economics dictate that as the demand for food becomes higher, price would rise. This then pushes into transport costs and agricultural expenses.

Under the IFPRI criteria (refer 3.0), food shortage translates to higher costs for necessary commodities, which particularly effects poorer households.

It can also affect a nations ability to trade (import/export) as transport costs and consumer price index increase.

Labour Market

Higher commodity prices create demand for increased wage rates, which in turn pressures employees to renegotiate wages in order to maintain their original buying power (IFPRI report, 2008).

Fiscal Balance

A food crisis will affect many changes in the way a government will spend and allocate its resources.

  • Changes in trade volume or value, due to a food crisis, will affect tariff revenue, a valuable source of income for developing nations.
  • Increases to the price of commodities will affect government spending on subsidies.
  • Decreased spending on government aid programs due to lack of resources.

(IFPRI report, 2008)

External Balance

Changes to the price of trade items such as food goods, will cause decline in the terms of trade between two nations (IFPRI report, 2008).

Political Climate

The effects of food crisis can shift the way a population think and act, leading to rioting and dissent (WFP, 2012).

Household effects

As a trickle down from the fiscal balance of a food shortage, households would be imposed with greater taxes and decreased government benefits (refer table 2, above), affecting poorer households (IFPRI report, 2008).

Increased fiscal pressure on average households ties in with the effects on the national labour market (IFPRI report, 2008). The authors of The Global Food Crisis: Governance Challenges & Opportunities, state that although wage rates will increase in accordance with cost of living, there is traditionally a delay period (page 172). This will cause consumers to start buying cheaper, less nutritional, resources.

Individual effects

A report by the Overseas Development Institute, or ODI, found the worst‐affected groups of individuals were casual wage labourers (rural and urban), land‐poor farmers, petty traders, and producers of commodities whose terms of trade declined against food grains.

Affected individuals have to source cheaper alternative foods and will often cease all unnecessary expenditures; this often means removing children from school in order to work. Both effects concede greater rates of malnutrition, particularly in women and children (WFP, 2012), and lower standards of education (IFPRI report, 2008).

Organisations and Programs for Aid

There are multiple organisations operating aid programs to deal with food shortages in developing nations. Some deal acutely with specific regions or communities while others work to implement widespread relief via an entire nation, continent or globally. The two key organisations involved are both agencies of the UN.

World Food Program

The WFP look after the physical implementation of aid programs, and are responsible for 83 percent of total food purchases in developing nations. In 2010, the WFP had delivered 3.6 million, of 5.4 million tonnes of global food aid, according to their facts blast.pdf, The WFP also conducts the “on ground” assessment reports related to food crisis in developing nations.

Food and Agricultural Organisation

The FAO is a neutral forum where nations discuss reforms, policies and actions in an effort to defeat global hunger. Separate to the WFP, the FAO educates governments on better agriculture, forestry and fishery practices that foster sustained improvements to internal infrastructure.

Systems for Prevention and Aid

In the joint report, released by the WFP and FAO in 2010, there are 3 key systems for prevention and deliverance of aid to nations experiencing a food shortage.

  • Improving analysis and understanding.
  • Improving support for livelihoods and food security.
  • Reforming the “architecture” of assistance.

Improving analysis and understanding

The characteristics and context are different in the case of each individual nation experiencing a food crisis. Responses to crises, whether internal or external, must be tailored to that nation. This comes down to appropriate identification of response through the analysis of current and true data (FAO/WFP report, 2010).

Support for livelihoods and food security

The WFP and FAO respond to acute crises by assessing the livelihood dynamics within the country (government and individual) so as to not create further conflict or threats to food security (FAO/WFP report, 2010).

Reforming the relief architecture

The report says, for relief programs to be effective, they must undergo continuing reform during implementation. They need to adjust for the disparity between actions devised in aid forums and what is actual happening “on the ground”, in affected nations.

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