The New Face of Hunger Essay

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The New Face of Hunger Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 894

  • Pages: 4

The New Face of Hunger

Abstract

            The world is facing a new food crisis. Agricultural countries are experiencing the major shift in demand, and need time to reach the new economic equilibrium. There are several possible solutions to that, but none of them can improve the situation in the short run.

            The problem

            “The New Face of Hunger” discusses the food problems the world currently faces (The Economist, 2008). As the world is entering the “new unsustainable and politically risky period”, agricultural countries are unable to increase food production (The Economist, 2008). Equatorial countries experience persistent food riots. Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt, and Philippines have already turned food scarcity into an international political issue. The basic food products have experienced price increase in 2007: “last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%” (The Economist, 2008). The majority of the smaller farmers do not know the reasons of such dramatic economic changes.

            The causes

            To economic professionals, the reasons of food crisis are more than evident. First, the price increase reflects the changes in demand. Indian and Chinese populations consume more food as they are becoming richer. The demand is seriously impacted by “western biofuels programmes, which convert cereals into fuel” (The Economist, 2008). Second, the current market situation also impacts the major export quotas, and promotes panic-buying economic behavior (The Economist, 2008). Third, the farmers cannot immediately react to the changes in market demand and export quotas. Food production requires time.

As governments were trying to soften the impact of rising good price on domestic markets, farmers did not receive economic signals from external markets, and did not have any opportunity to adjust their production to the new market requirements. Moreover, to produce more food, farmers need time to grow it. They need more land, which should be suitable for agricultural needs. Undoubtedly, farmers will be able to cope with the food crisis in future, and will increase their production scales to fit the new demand, but is clear that “the transition to the new equilibrium is proving costlier, more prolonged, and much more painful than anyone had expected” (The Economist, 2008).

            Solutions

            Ideally, the 450 million of small farmers would be able to resolve the food crisis. Those who live in developing countries and own no more than several acres, could supply the world with food products, reducing their own poverty, improving environment, and promoting economic efficiency of food production: “in terms of returns on investment, it would be easier to boost grain yields in Africa from two tones per hectare to four than it would be to raise yields in Europe from eight tonnes to ten” (The Economist, 2008).

However, small farmers seem pessimistic about these plans. The planted areas are cut back as their owners cannot afford purchasing fertilizers (The Economist, 2008). In addition, agricultural production cannot immediately respond to the changing demand. Higher yields need better irrigation and fancier seeds, which cannot be produced or found overnight (The Economist, 2008). “The time lag between dreaming up a new seed and growing it commercially in the field is ten to 15 years” (The Economist, 2008). This is why none of the proposed solutions would help resolving the food issue in the short run.

            I personally think that we should prepare ourselves to the long period of reaching a new economic equilibrium. It is true that the era of cheap products is over. Even when farmers finally manage to produce more, the price will hardly go down. As the average farm size has fallen from 1.5 to 0.5 hectares, small farmers are facing more difficulties in responding to higher food prices. We can only rely on the two factors: the growing food supply, which will slowly increase with time, and technologies and research, which will hopefully promote better yields without increasing the average farm size. In any case, agricultural production requires time. As there are no possible solutions which could help resolve the issue in the short run, we have nothing but to wait until the situation is improved.

References

The Economist. (2008). The new face of hunger. The Economist.com. Retrieved April 28,

2008, from http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11049284

 

 

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The New Face of Hunger Essay

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
The New Face of Hunger Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 733

  • Pages: 3

The New Face of Hunger

The problem on food shortage happening today, especially in those considered third world countries, is almost unbelievable especially when the more grim reality is taken into account – that this crisis of 2008 is not calculated to go away in the next few years, but will stay and linger until it has affected and wiped out the gains of the poorest in the past decade when the economy was in progression, leaving also another 100 million people poor along its wake (Zoellick, ). If this calculation was made out of accurate perception of the world’s real economic situation, and therefore will actually happen more or less in the near future, the problem then is not something that is to be treated casually.

This sudden surge of price-rise on wheat and rice was due to increase in demand and not actually because the supply was scarce. There were radical changes in recent decades that occurred with regard to sustained production of those crops considered to be sources of staple food. Because of the increase of demand, the otherwise sufficient supply has now become inadequate, leaving the world’s economy faltering. According to an article written by Francisco Noguera (2008), the biggest culprit behind all these crises is the Biofuels Programs of the West.

Since there were acres of land converted to accommodate the government’s Biofuel program, the outcome was shortage in food supply. Wealthy people in India and China, with power now to hoard more grain and meat, have in turn exerted an upward pressure which contributed to the waning supply of grain. Biofuels Programs have virtually converted “cereals into fuels.” Making matters worse, the ripple-effects of this problem on food shortage are the negative coping with which everyone among different sectors – especially in the market – are responding. Of course, export quotas are diminishing, those who import grains are into panic-buying, and finances siphoned to potential new markets, etcetera.

With all of these radical changes taking place in the markets among nations, in the agricultural sector however, there aren’t much comparable changes taking place commensurate to the sudden shift. The solution to the problem of food crisis is easy to detect. Looking at it in smaller scale, and in individual level, when someone is hungry, the involuntary reaction is to eat – to feed one’s self. If the family is big, the father will of course endeavor to provide enough to meet the need of his family. The irony which has been happening in this critical scenario is that instead of allowing the agricultural sector to respond naturally, the governments of some of the affected nations for fear of more mass uprisings have tried to sedate the populace, rendering them numb and incapable of responding properly to the need for not directly absorbing the impact once it had hit. In those cases, the government had effectively muffled the shock.

For example, out of the 58 countries watched by the World Bank, 48 have enforced certain measures to alleviate the effect of the crisis – such as imposing price controls and consumer subsidies, etc. This means that only 10 out of 58 countries have been honest enough to their people and allowed this grim reality to set in normally. The natural response of farmers to this shortage of supply in grains will no doubt be to grow more crops that will meet the current rising demand. No other solution will curb this food crisis.

To prevent the potential prolongation of the present food problem, there must be measures presently being done to increase the supply side of the issue. If there is shortage in rice, then let the farmers plant more rice. I think, governments should rethink their programs that directly or may have indirectly caused food problems. Food is not secondary matter in life. If there are priorities to sustain in any government programs, one of them should be on food. And it should be prioritized not only in critical economic times but in any season – lean or plenty.

Reference:

Noguera, Francisco. 2008. The New Face of Hunger. http://www.economist.com/world/international/disp laystory.cfm?story_id=11049284

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