In case you missed it, here are Part I, Part II, and Part III of What Causes Food Insecurity. Here is the final part of this segment. While more could be said about each of these topics, remember I’m simplifying a lot of this for the purpose of readability (and this is a blog not an academic paper!).
Here are two more reasons that are commonly cited for increases in the cost of food and subsequently food insecurity.
Fuel Costs: You may recall in early to mid-2008 the price of oil rose dramatically ($140/barrel… in the Bay Area gas was over $4.00/gallon) and all of a sudden there were riots in various developing countries (I remember Haiti, since I was working at a government agency dealing with food security issues). The price of oil is largely controlled by OPEC (Organization of Oil Exporting Countries). Increases in the cost of fuel means increases in the cost of food for a few reasons.
- Gasoline and other petroleum based chemicals are inputs for a lot of agricultural production (i.e. tractors, fertilizers, etc). When the cost of production increases, generally that cost is incurred by the consumer because the producer doesn’t want to (and often simply can’t afford to) lose profits.
- Transportation. Certain places have better climates for growing. If you live in the the United States, chances are a lot of your produce comes from California or Mexico. The cost of transporting food is reflected in the price of the food. If it costs more to ship some grains around the world then food is going to cost more.
Increased Demand from Emerging Nations: It is argued that certain developing nations namely China, Brazil and India have increase in wealth and improved quality of life in recent years. This has created increased demand for food, particularly meat and dairy products, which require more land and agricultural products to produce. Increased demand with a constant supply causes an increase in price.
Here’s my opinion on this last point:
I don’t think it’s fair to blame developing nations for increasing the cost of food. I’ve never been to China, and was too young when I went to Brazil to observe this kind of thing, but India still has extreme levels of poverty and hunger. I wonder how much their consumption has increased actually affecting food prices.
Developed countries have been consuming at unsustainable levels for decades. Can we honestly tell countries like China, Brazil and India that they cannot enjoy the same luxuries that we do? I think curbing consumption is extremely important for attaining food security and environmental sustainability, but we cannot expect certain nations to limit themselves when we do not. This is the major reason why I am a vegetarian. I feel like if I reduce my consumption of meat, more people in the world might be able to eat and the Earth will be a bit healthier. Some would say it’s a drop in the bucket, but I think it’s worth it.
What are your thoughts? Do you see any solutions to these issues?
Is there anything you’d like to know more about?