Why Is There a Global Food Crisis?
A few years ago, it might have been hard to imagine a world where essential food items such as wheat or oil products were hard to obtain due to their price. With the Ukraine war, a changing climate, and fertilizer shortages upon us, this is the reality society faces now. A very fragile food security crisis has spawned, disrupting the supply chain in ways that threaten to exacerbate famine and poverty worldwide.
The Russia-Ukraine crisis will negatively impact people's lives far beyond the combat zone. Some might even suggest that it is the tipping point since food security was already an issue before the war.
The conflict has disturbed the supply chain as Russia is barricading Odessa, a central transport hub on the Black Sea, and Ukraine has mined its waters to block attacks. Russia has successfully stifled Ukraine’s economy, drastically contributing to global oilseeds and grain shortages.
Ukraine’s food exports feed four hundred million people. Together the two contribute roughly 65% of the sunflower oil and 30% of the wheat exported globally. This significant share from Ukraine and Russia has drastically impacted how much product is shipped out and the cost of the scarce products.
Because of these implications, the world is at a greater risk for increased poverty rates and famine on top of a preexisting food security issue.
Climate Change’s Role
A changing climate is a leading factor in the preceding food shortage. Droughts and delays in the rain are causing issues within the global food system that dramatically impact crops' prices and yield. With droughts occurring in many prime farming communities around the world, there is a quite weak level of production in wheat.
Wheat is a crucial grain that goes into many everyday items like bread, cereals, and pasta. Many people rely on these products to feed their families.
Of course, people located in lower-income countries feel the effects of this climate crisis more than others since they rely more on local and imported crops, such as Africa. The Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula, is experiencing one of the worst droughts they have ever experienced. A significant number of Somali children younger than 5 are acutely malnourished, with hunger mortality rates on the rise.
Additionally, India is going through a massive heat wave disrupting its ability to produce wheat. Temperatures have been so intense that crops are withering away from the heat and lack of hydration. Being the second-largest wheat producer, India plays a very important role in its production.
However, the first largest producer, China, is also experiencing environmental changes. After experiencing delays in planting due to the heavy rains last year, China stated that their wheat might be its least successful harvest ever.
On the other hand, different areas in the world are being impacted by a lack of rain, such as the Beauce region of France and the wheat belt in America.
These climatic circumstances make it extremely difficult to produce a good harvest and make what little is available much more expensive and hard to obtain for lower-income countries.
Fertilizer Shortages are Upon Us
On top of increased prices in food items, energy and fertilizer prices are also spiking upwards. Both of these commodities drastically influence the ability to generate successful crops. In fact, they are both the main costs for farmers. This surge in price is impacting profit margins, causing a shrinkage. Global yields will decrease if farmers reduce fertilizer usage.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the three macronutrient components of a fertilizer called “trifecta” that lead to global grain production tripling.
"Now, it is in short supply, and farmers, fertilizer companies, and governments around the globe are scrambling to avert a seemingly inevitable tumble in crop yields,"
says Joel K. Bourne, Jr. of the National Geographic regarding the fertilizer shortage.
This situation puts a spotlight on the importance of fertilizers within the farming community.
What Items Might Increase in Cost
Staple food items such as grains and vegetable oils have been the most affected products that are increasing. Some examples of grain products are bread, pasta, and wheat flour. Sunflower seed oil is the primary vegetable oil that is rising in price; however, other vegetable oil prices will also be affected.
Rice is one among the grain family that is slowly inching up in price, putting it on the lookout for a drastic increase, like wheat.
Additionally, dairy items, meat, and sugar have increased over the past year.
These price increases make it more challenging to obtain these staple items, specifically those in lower-waged countries.
How to Prepare
With all the widespread talk and evidence of global food shortages upon us, it is not a bad idea to prepare for such an event. This does not imply panic buying, as some might assume. Panic buying products, especially those that are already scarce, can cause even more disruption within the supply chain. There are more effective ways to prepare for conditions like these.
Buying locally if able to, slowly stocking up on non-perishables, growing a garden, and learning how to preserve food are all excellent ways to help ease the hit of a food shortage.
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Resources: (click the arrow to expand)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/06/13/climate-disasters-collide-with-ukraine-war-deepen-hunger-crisis/ https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/13/rice-prices-are-rising-amid-rising-food-inflation-export-bans-.html https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/05/19/the-coming-food-catastrophe https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/agriculture/our-insights/the-rising-risk-of-a-global-food-crisis https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/global-food-crisis-looms-as-fertilizer-supplies-dwindle https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/04/food-prices-fao-index-cereals-commodities-exports/
Shiana Irlbeck is a content writer for the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability. She also holds a BS in Psychology from Iowa State University.
Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.