Why Food Shortages are a Huge Concern Right Now

Maggie Harper (Hunger To Hope)

The world is facing a global hunger crisis of staggering size. The combined elements exacerbated by various conflicts, climate change, COVID-19 ripples and the war in Ukraine have caused the process of food, fuel, and fertilizers to rise significantly. As a result, food insecurity has increased from around 135 million people across 53 countries (a pre pandemic rate) to over 345 million in 82 countries. 

The question you may be asking is, “How does a war half-way around the world affect consumer prices?”. Among many other global micro and macro-economic factors, some of the most immediate influences on food supply chains are things like sanctions, the interruption and destruction of essential infrastructure, import and export complication, and supply chain problems. The conflict in Ukraine is pushing global food prices higher which in turn are making food less available. 

The higher prices and diminishing stock of food reserves will likely continue food shortages and insecurities in countries around the world, not just in poorer nations, but developed countries as well.  

War Reaches Everyone

The war in Ukraine has an impact on global food reserves and supply chains for a number of reasons: First, Ukraine is one of the world's six foremost producers of grain. Russia and Ukraine together produce around 6% of all the world’s grain but export a much larger amount (16%) of other cereals like corn, wheat, barley, and oats. These foods do not just go to feed humans, they are also sustenance for animals. 

The feed is used for livestock such as chicken, cattle, and pigs. When the prices of livestock feed goes up, consequently so does the price of those proteins.  War is disrupting the production and exportation of grains to vulnerable countries who are dependent upon these supplies as a form of support and, often, humanitarian relief to other troubled regions. 

Second, this breadbasket region, in connection with vital supply chains in the Black Sea — which acts as a transit local for wheat and fertilizers— is pushing global food reserves into high rates of risk. Third, Ukraine has a unique position of being one of the world's foremost sunflower oil producers—around 44%. 

The product, used in many household foods, and its shortage is forcing food producers into reformulating their products which costs time and money that is then passed on to the consumer. Even when a reformulation is completed, the new ingredients can make the product more expensive. While the presence of war is having an effect on global markets, there were issues present before COVID or the war. 

Hunger and its Biggest Causes

Eradicating world hunger is less an issue of supply and much or of complications due to infrastructure, access, and availability. The world's countries produce more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet, but the complications which arise constantly from a variety of things. Here are some of the most influential causes.

• Conflicts - Whether it is a war, gang violence, or tribal disputes, conflict in any form is the number one driver of hunger because it displaces families, destroys economies, wrecks infrastructures, and disrupts food production.  60% of starving people live in conflict zones. 

• Climate Change- Weather patterns are contingent on global temperatures— so is agriculture. Entire ecosystems are changing due to climate change, and with it the ability to grow food. Not only that, but the number of extreme weather disasters has doubled in the last 30 years. 

• Food Waste- Of all the food produced each year, nearly one third is wasted or lost to things like insects and pests. In affluent countries where food is prevalent, food is simply thrown away. 

When combining these factors with an event like the war in Ukraine, a pandemic, and the astoundingly high rate of global poverty, threats to food access are sadly commonplace, but this is not just a problem in developing nations. Wealthy nations and their citizens suffer as well. Typically associated with poverty, homelessness,  and inequality, food shortages range widely, from typically 8- 20% of the population. These statistics have driven nations like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States to declare these problems a public health priority. 

The combination of the previously mentioned factors creates constant consequences on global populations in the form of hunger, inflation, and economic stress. While the rates of effect are higher in developing nations, wealthier nations also suffer and battle to overcome food shortages. The efforts of social workers are paramount in providing aid worldwide. In this global economy, no nation, or individual stands alone. 


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