Food shortage - a global problem?

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Societies all over the globe are faced with the effects of a process referred to as Globalization. This process amplifies the worldwide interconnectedness. Thus former boundaries disappear and local actions and developments easily can have consequences for other regions and even the whole world. The world literally gets smaller.

Nature, Nations, societies and individuals are affected by globalization, but the allocation of its benefits is highly unequal. A large number of the world’s population still lives in poverty. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claims in its world hunger report 2009 that 1.02 billion people are undernourished worldwide [1]. The food shortage especially concerns sub-Saharan Africa and most south-Asian countries [2].

Already in the late fifties the first Federal Chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, has indicated that a global co-operation is necessary to overcome the main challenges for societies nowadays:

“Our enemies of today are not other nations. Our enemies of today are poverty, ignorance, disease and discrimination. What we need is co-operation based on the idea that the entire world is one human family. Ignorance and lack of understanding among Asian, African and Western nations is the greatest danger we are facing today” (Konrad Adenauer, 1957).

Massive food shortage does not seem to be an issue for industrialized countries like the United States of America, Canada, Australia or the nations of the European Union. If one thinks about food shortage, pictures of dying children on the African continent cross one's mind. Indeed most of the countries with an undernourished population are in sub-Saharan Africa and south-Asia. The main problem in south-Asia regarding food shortage are undernourished children. One big reason is the low social standing of women. Therefore young mothers often are uneducated and not able to raise their children properly. Most sub-Saharan countries suffer from a dramatic infant mortality rate and a high rate of people who are unable to meet their calorie demand. The main reasons are bad governance, military conflicts, political instability and a high rate of HIV-infected people. But does that automatically lead to the conclusion massive food shortage is just a regional problem? The following article will discuss the main reasons for and the consequences of massive food shortage for the global community.

Reasons for food shortage

We are still incapable of stopping the ecological trends which jeopardize the worldwide food production. In particular groundwater depression, soil erosion and global warming.

A huge problem is the steep rise in food prices since 2005. According to the published data of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the real price level of food in 2005 was 75 percent lower than in 1974. However since 2005 the real price level of food is soaring. The FAO food price index for food in 2006 increased by nine percent, 2007 by 23 percent and between may 2007 and may 2008 by more than 50 percent. Virtually all kinds of food are affected by the rising prices. The prices for wheat and poultry doubled since 2003. The prices for Maize and butter tripled and the price for rice increased fourfold.

Growth of agricultural production

In sechs der zurückliegenden neun Jahre blieb die Weltgetreideerzeugung hinter dem Verbrauch zurück und führte zu ständig sinkenden Lagerbeständen. Als 2008 die Ernte begann, reichten die weltweiten Vorräte gerade noch für 62 Tage – fast ein Rekordtief. Infolgedessen kletterten die Getreidepreise im Frühjahr und Sommer 2008 auf den höchsten je verzeichneten Stand.