The coming food crisis

The coming food crisis

Global food safety system is experiencing a constant voltage on the verge of collapse, and the Russian fires and Pakistan floods aggravated an already difficult situation.

In a world in which, for the first time in human history, a billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition, reserve for unexpected losses was small. But the tragic events of this summer with special distinctness revealed the vulnerability of global food markets.

Terrible fires and deadly drought in Russia has killed not less than one-tenth of the entire wheat crop, which led to the imposition of the ban on exports (short-sighted policy). The ongoing floods and large-scale destruction of crops in Pakistan has created a situation of mass humanitarian crisis, which has killed more than 1 600 man and 16 million people were left homeless and without food sources. And this in a region vital to U.S. national security. These and other climate crises caused instability in food prices, which disproportionately heavy burden on the shoulders of the poorest of the world’s population.

It is less known that the price of wheat since the beginning of July jumped on 50%. Organization for Food and agriculture United Nations has recently reduced its global Outlook for wheat in 2010 four percent of the fears that national governments will hide the exact numbers, in order to secure supplies. Wheat prices are rising, and, obeying a Domino effect on the world food markets will increase the demand for other major food crops, e.g. rice, resulting in higher costs for the consumer. With the skyrocketing prices may encounter, in particular, Egypt and other countries heavily dependent on Russian supplies of wheat, which can lead to street riots.

Fortunately, there are signs that we probably would still be able to avoid a repeat of the food crisis of 2007—2008, when the price of food soared one hundred percent, which led to violent riots in Port-AU-Prince and in Mogadishu. A bumper crop this year in the United States of America, in addition to the replenishment of the world‘s wheat stocks, are able to compensate the Russian crop failure this year, caused by forest fires. However, these short-term measures should not lull us into believing complacency or a false sense of confidence. As yet we have no strategy, no ready-made solutions, how to end hunger in the world.

In the near future the United States must fulfill the promise of American President Barack Obama, to allocate us $ 3.5 billion in aid to food security. After the solemn Declaration of the President in 2009 was allocated for these purposes only 812 million dollars. Undoubtedly, the United States is capable of more, and in the shortest possible time. Emergency food assistance is needed to prevent famine and death, which can be avoided in Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Northern Nigeria. Congress should increase the U.S. contribution to the world food program and to insist on accountability and reform the distribution of over $ 2 billion annually deducted as food aid. Program food aid in emergency situations (Emergency Food Security Program), allowing to increase the flexibility of international food aid through purchases from local producers, cash transfers and food stamps, was a step in the right direction and deserves the support of Congress.

Aside from the immediate crisis and to look at the broader issue, the United States and other developed countries should return to the forgotten their practice investment in aid to agriculture in developing countries, purposefully provided to small farmers as the main driving force of economic growth. In Africa, for example, agriculture employs more than 60 percent of the labor force, and it gives up to 25 percent of industrial production on the continent. And yet Africa far from stability: almost ten million people in the North of the Sahel region (South of Sahara) suffer from extreme hunger; moreover, in most countries still lack adequate investment in agriculture and road infrastructure that can facilitate the production of products with high added value and contribute to the emergence of new markets.

Despite the fact that the United States provide more than half of global food aid in support of agriculture today stands only 3.5 percent of all aid provided to US for development. Compare this figure with 18 percent, which it was in 1979. It is not surprising that the growth of agricultural productivity in developing countries is now less than 1 percent per year.

You need to improve and targeted distribution of this assistance. We could achieve sustainable results, focusing on the problem of preserving land and water resources and improvement of agricultural crops, instead of using carbon fertilizers. Research and adequate biotechnology, safe and open to their use, can give a significant increase in yields and water savings. We must invest in women, which in many developing countries up to 80 percent of food manufacturers, and it is often deprived of the support and necessary services, allowing them to use my heavy agricultural labor funds for health care and education of their family members.

Internationally, the United States should lead efforts to ensure open and managed agricultural markets. Farm subsidies and tariffs in rich countries should be reduced, and food markets must become more transparent. A recent report by the Organization for economic cooperation and development indicated that subsidies in agriculture in the rich countries of the world increased to 252,5 billion, representing 22 percent of total cash receipts of farmers in 2009. Should be eliminated all barriers to free trade among developing countries.

Big twenty leading developed and developing countries must deliver on their promises to allocate $ 22 billion to improve global food security by sending the actual funds. You should praise the multilateral Global agriculture and food security (Global Agriculture and Food Security Program), a new global partnership, sponsored by the financial revenues from the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Spain and the bill & Melinda gates Foundation, for providing 224 million dollars in the form of initial grants to help strengthen food security and reduce poverty in five developing countries.

However, sustainable growth in agricultural productivity will require more active opposition to future climate change. Food shortages resulting from severe crop failure will probably occur more and more often, and more time will be needed in order to cope with it, because an increasing number of people will be exposed to extreme weather conditions, what are this year’s drought in Russia and floods in Pakistan. According to forecasts of the world Bank, developing countries over the next forty years will require 75 to 100 billion dollars per year in order to cope with the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity, infrastructure and morbidity.

This year, we may be able to deal with interruptions in food supply created in Russia and Eastern Europe. But even in the best times of our global food system is under constant tension and faltering because of the constant problems of population growth, increased need for a change in diet, increase energy costs, and worsening climate. According to experts from the Organization for Food and agriculture of the United Nations, the productivity of global agriculture to keep pace with the growing demand by 2050 should be doubled. If we don’t take immediate action, our descendants are doomed to an unbroken chain of food crises, one after another, with the most serious consequences for the poor around the world and for our national security.

Source: NYTIMES

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