Sunday, February 1, 2009

FAO Report on Global Food Crisis

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its report, released recently, states that global food production, already under strain from the credit crunch, must double by 2050. The food crisis pushed another 40 million people into hunger in 2008. That brought the global number of undernourished people to 973 million in 2008, out of a total population of around 6.5 billion.
The report states that the world face the challenge now of not only ensuring food for the 973 million who are currently hungry, but also ensuring there is food for nine billion people in 2050. The world needs to double global food production by 2050.
The report warned the global economic crisis was already undermining efforts to tackle food insecurity as it was making it harder for farmers to get loans to buy materials and new equipment that would boost yields. The current economic situation does not make the task easier. The fall in prices for certain food staples from 2008’s highs could also discourage farmers from sowing crops, adding to the difficulty in meeting FAO’s goal to halve the number of people who live in hunger by 2015.
According to report, a combination of factors, including poor harvests, changing diets in emerging economics and a drive for biofuels, have come together to push food prices up, leading to protests in around 30 countries in 2008. It warned the world would only be able to produce enough food for everyone in 2050 if food security was made a top priority.

The Major Factors
There are multiple factors contributing to this global food crisis. First, the rate of population growth has outstripped the rate of growth in food production in some developing regions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Second, less rice is being planted in some countries as land becomes exhausted or otherwise unsuitable for cultivation or is converted to other uses such as subdivisions, malls and resorts.
Third, water shortage poses a problem as rice yields depend critically on water. A study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) suggests that by 2020 one-third of Asia’s population could face a water shortage.
Fourth, droughts, pest infestation, the spread of plant, diseases and other creeping disasters drastically reduce rice production.
Fifth, rising consumption in emerging nations has created increased demand on the global cereal supply.
The expanding biofuels industry has caused the conversion of rice lands to corn and other crops that are sources of biofuels.
Seventh, the growth of the middle class in China and India has increased the demand for meat which requires the consumption of more feedstock.
Worldwide there is increasing demand. There turns out to be prosperity in developing world. It also however, increses demand. There are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That is bigger than American’s entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the prices to go up.
The other factors include:
* More than 90 per cent of rice is consumed in the countries where it is grown.
* In the last quarter-century, rice consumption has out-paced production.
* Global reserves have plunged by half since just 2000.
* A plant disease is hurting harvests in Vietnam.
* Economic uncertainty has led producers to hoard rice.
* Speculators and investors see it as a lucrative or at least safe bet.
UN Stand
However, the UN has confirmed what was widely suspected—the US and European Union policy to divert food crops for biofuel production is contributing to rising global food crisis. The UN agencies and the World Bank have decided to set up a task force to tackle an unprecedented rise in global food price that is threatening to spread social unrest. Headed by Ban Ki-Moon, the task force, bringing together the heads of the UN agencies, funds and programmes, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, will set priorities for a plan of action and make sure it is carried out.
Food security is more than a transient concern. A multilateral framework is necessary and so is a coordinated response within the UN family. Mere empathy will remain grossly inadequate.

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