Global Food Crisis: No Time to lose

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Hunger is stalking the world. Seven years ago, the United Nations vowed to eradicate it by 2030. Yet, record high food prices have triggered a global crisis that will drive millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition while threatening to erase hard-won gains in development. Indeed, the world is facing a severe food crisis. It unites the world while having regionally specific pathologies. It is also systemic and global. Huge populations in “developing” countries are becoming more and more susceptible to starvation and disaster. The Agricultural Price Index is 19% higher as of July 15, 2022, compared to January 20, 2021. In comparison to January 2021, the price of maize is 15% higher, the price of wheat is 24% higher, and the price of rice is approximately 11% lower. Worldwide, domestic food price inflation is still very high. According to data from February to June 2022, almost all low- and middle-income countries experienced high inflation; 94.1 percent of low-income nations, 88.9 percent of lower-middle-income nations, and 87 percent of upper-middle-income nations experienced inflation levels above 5 percent, with many experiencing double-digit inflation. With around 67.9 percent of high-income nations suffering high food price inflation, the proportion of nations with high inflation has also dramatically increased.

The war in Ukraine has changed global trade, production, and consumption patterns of commodities in ways that will keep prices at historically high levels through the end of 2024, aggravating food insecurity and inflation, according to the World Bank’s April 2022 Commodity Markets Outlook. Even while food costs were already high before the war, they are now rising even faster. Wheat, maize, edible oils, and fertilizers are the commodities that have been most negatively impacted. Global commodity markets are subject to upside risks from the following sources: a decline in grain supply, an increase in energy costs, a rise in fertilizer prices, and a disruption in trade as a result of the closure of important ports. Over the coming months, a major challenge will be access to fertilizers which may impact food production across many crops in different regions. Russia and Belarus are major fertilizer exporters, accounting for 38% of potassic fertilizers, 17% of compound fertilizers, and 15% of nitrogenous fertilizers. In a joint statement issued on April 13, 2022, the heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, United Nations World Food Program, and World Trade Organization urged the international community to take immediate action to combat food insecurity, maintain trade freedom, and support vulnerable nations, including by providing financing to address the most immediate needs.

The number of countries imposing trade-related policies has increased since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine. The increased number of food trade restrictions implemented by nations in an effort to boost domestic production and lower costs has contributed to the global food crisis’ deterioration. As of July 15, 18 nations had enacted 27 bans on the export of food, while seven had enacted 11 restrictions. Hunger levels continue to be worrisomely high worldwide. According to the 2022 State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report, 828 million people were suffering from hunger in 2021, up roughly 46 million from 2020 and 150 million from 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Additionally, from June to September 2022, severe food insecurity might get worse in 20 countries or regions, according to the WFP and FAO. The World Bank said on May 18 that it would invest up to $30 billion in ongoing and new projects in sectors like agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation as part of a comprehensive, global response to the ongoing food security issue. This funding will involve work to encourage food and fertilizer production, enhance food systems, facilitate greater trade, and support vulnerable households and producers.

The Global Alliance for Food Security, which intends to spark an immediate and coordinated response to the escalating global hunger crisis, was jointly convened on May 19 by the World Bank Group and the G7 Presidency. Indeed, there is a severe food problem. It unites the world while having regionally specific pathologies. It is also systemic and global. The rate at which fat is accumulating on the “developed” side of the calorific gap is alarming. Huge populations in “emerging” countries are becoming more and more susceptible to starvation and disaster. The most obvious manifestation of global inequality is the division of the planet into fat and hungry regions. Although this process has quickened recently, the roots of this kind of bodily polarity and stratification go far back in time. Dietary inequality was ingrained in these systems as Europeans colonized the world and created the food systems that supported their industrialization and progress. These previous methods have led to the current global food problem. One of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century, then, is to find a way of overcoming this history and producing a more equitable global food system, one in which the obese will lose some of their weight while the starving will gain some. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are going hungry as food prices continue to rise as a result of everything from the coronavirus pandemic, extreme heatwave to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Without meaningful action to make food more affordable, we may see starvation and political upheaval.

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