What Causes Food Insecurity: Part I

In developing nations, I believe a large problem regarding food security is the economic issues associated with food security.  I plan on having another post about international agriculture, trade and the World Trade Organization (WTO), but for now I’ll try to explain some things that affect the price of food.

Some of these are quite contentious and people can argue the effects of one or the other on actual food prices and access to food.  That being said, I will try to provide an unbiased look at food issues.

I decided to break this topic into multiple posts, as there’s kind of a lot to say and I really don’t want to bore you all (not that any of this is boring!!) or oversimplify it to the point of making it inaccurate.

So I’ll start with one cause

Potential Cause #1:  Low Food Stocks

As the supply of a certain good decreases, the price increases if demand does not change.  Today I will only cover one of the things that influences the supply of food in the world.

Natural Disasters: Natural disasters and weather patterns can negatively or positively affect the harvest in any given year.  However, this may not be a particularly strong argument as, generally speaking, countries with adverse weather patterns generally are aware of these possibilities and therefore can often mitigate negative outcomes.

Bad harvests in certain areas are often offset by good harvests in other areas, as was the case in 2007.  Bad harvests the EU and the Ukraine and Australia were offset by good harvests in Argentina, Kazakhstan, Russia and the US.  While weather issues can contribute to decreases in food production and subsequent increase in prices, the impact should not warrant a global food crisis.
(Source: Jenifer Piesse and Colin Thitle, “Three Bubbles and a Panic: An Explanatory Review of Recent Food Commodity Price Events.” Food Policy 34)

Next time… Government Policies that affect food prices

What are your thoughts?


Food Security: Part I

The term food security has become more common in national and international rhetoric.

That being said, it’s not that common.

Generally, what people think of when they hear food security is hunger and famine.   However, that’s not necessarily the case.   Food security can be defined as “access by all people at all times to enough and appropriate food to provide the energy and nutrients needed to maintain an active and healthy life” (Barrett 2106).

Therefore, food security is not only necessarily about starving people in developing countries in villages like this:

(This is the village of Katar, outside Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.  June 2009)

A large portion of what I find interesting about food security is in fact in developing countries (and I’ll probably talk about this more later), but I think it’s important for people to realize that food security issues don’t only exist in low income countries.

I’ve heard the argument that countries like the United States and Europe should not deal with food security because it doesn’t directly concern them, but that’s simply not true.

There are many people in the United States alone that don’t have access to food.  According to the USDA, “14.6 percent (17.1 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2008.”  I’m pretty sure this doesn’t include those who live in food deserts without access to healthy foods.

Food Deserts are areas without access to healthy food, most prevalent in low income neighborhoods.   This can mean that:

  • There are no grocery stores in the neighborhood and/or grocery stores or farmer’s markets with fresh produce are accessible by transit or foot
  • Consumers cannot afford to buy healthy food and must buy unhealthy foods such as fast food.

Think of the places you live or have lived… Where are the grocery stores and farmer’s markets located?

I know when I lived in Berkeley, the majority of the grocery stores were located near the University and the affluent neighborhoods while West Berkeley only had mostly small convenience stores.

This was just a small intro into the concept of food security.  My hope is that you think about food security as not only an issue that Africa needs to deal with, but something we should all be concerned about (or at least keep in mind).

Stay tuned for the next part of the food security series! Have a great night!