Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Is the World heading to global food shock?

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  7 July 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

A new report envisions a nightmare scerio in which just three climate change-driven disasters could lead to global food shock, resulting in food riots as the price of basic crops skyrockets and stock markets experience significant losses. The risk assessment, [produced by insurer Lloyd’s of London—with support from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and vetted by academics from a number of institutions] shows just how close humanity may be to catastrophic collapse by mid-century unless significant changes are made to slow global warming.

The scerio presented in the report looks at what would happen if there were three simultaneous disasters; specifically a heat wave in South America, an explosion of windblown wheat stern rust pathogen across Russia and a particularly strong El Niño southern oscillation cycle—all perfectly plausible events given current climate trends. The impact of this would be enough to cripple global food security.

A model created by Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustaibility Institute in light of the report finds that “In this scerio, global society essentially collapses [in 2040] as food production falls permanently short of consumption.” But this scerio is based on a “business as usual” approach, one in which man-made climate change leads to a combition of increased flooding and increased drought, with agriculture facing the prospect of functioning under water stress conditions as soon as 2025.

However, if carbon emissions are slashed and agriculture adapts, this scerio does not have to play out.

A timely warning indeed!

As per latest assessments global food production has been assessed to rise by 70 percent by 2050 to cater for growth in world population of more than 30 percent. Can we achieve this??

It is beyond any shade of doubt that global food security is one of the most pressing societal issues of our time. Though advances in agricultural technology and expertise will significantly increase the food production potential of many countries/regions, yet these advances will not increase production fast enough to meet the demands of the planet’s even faster-growing human population.

What is the situation right now? Are we in the safe zone?? Certainly not, so there is no question of complacency!! Then what are the options / altertives since tinkering around the present models only succeeded globally to an extent - leaving the gaps uncovered?

Food aid to the hungry though has a vital humanitarian role to play in countries which require assistance, yet it is not a sustaible solution. One has to go deeper to explore how a food deficit country [e.g. Ethiopia, with more than 10 million people dependent on food assistance] can address its problems by relieving the food insecurity of other such countries.

It has been a fact that population pressures would continue to tip the balance against proper land and water magement in many developing countries. While agricultural production is critical for any form of sustaible future, focusing on the agricultural sector alone without regard to other important factors which influence food production is not the right way. But here lies the problem with the developing block. Population programmes requires to be integrated into overall development objectives and be linked to other resource issues so that comprehensive development turns into reality.

With falling per caput food production and resource degradation, the strategic plan is to be incorporated with population concerns [viz. population growth, distribution and rural-urban migration patterns incorporate population]. For that matter community development strategy which integrates essential social services as well as production resources is welcome.

Side by side, sustaible development strategies [encompassing soil erosion and impoverishment, deforestation, falling agricultural output, and poor water magement] has to gain ground and also be implemented coupled with rural agricultural extension schemes which provide credit, seeds, fertilizers and advice to poorer farmers. Adequate support has to be given to research on the integration of traditiol and emerging technologies for food production. Local knowledge should not be given a back seat.

The question of integration with exterl markets just cannot be ignored to encourage farmers to form cooperatives as a recognized means of accessing urban and export markets – a balance between marketable surplus and marketed surplus.

The G20 group of countries has to make ready a realistic achievable action plan to deal with the volatile behaviour of food commodity markets and the decision has to be taken as to whether bio-fuels [being a key driver of rising food prices], targets and incentives are to be revised in a balanced manner and that food export restrictions that destabilize markets should be permitted only in the last resort.

It is in a word - optimal resource magement that is capable of increasing crop yields, preventing land degradation, while providing sustaible livelihoods for millions of rural poor. tiol population programmes, on the other hand, should include comprehensive and accessible materl and child health care programmes and family planning services not only to reduce the size of families and improve the health and well-being of the entire community, but increasing also the crucially needed food production ensuring protection of the environment while easing the burdens of the poor.

FAO has rightly noted that it is not only fincial resources that are needed. Beyond the factors that exacerbate the current crisis, there is a whole series of fundamental problems that need to be resolved, in particular how aid is channeled and how to make it reach smallholder farmers effectively, as well as reform of the world food security governce system for more coherence in the action of governments and development partners, the share of tiol budgets dedicated to agriculture and private sector investment. ‘It is vital, particularly in times of crisis, that support to agriculture is not reduced. Only a healthy agricultural sector, combined with a growing non-farm economy and effective safety nets and social protection programmes will be sufficient to face the global recession as well as eradicate food insecurity and poverty’.

At this very juncture in order to avoid the unpalatable consequences of widespread hunger and even starvation in the years and decades to come, a firm commitment is needed to increase crop yields of land area, nutrients applied, and at the same time the amount of water used. The positive impact of such efforts will considerably lessen the severity of the food shortage and lift hundreds of millions of people out of a state of hunger and malnutrition, thereby preventing widespread starvation, premature death and social unrest

So, when about 870 million people currently suffer from hunger and chronic malnutrition coupled with economic and fincial crisis, the consequences of climate change and the decrease in the amount of usable agricultural land worldwide, the same will all exacerbate the situation.

Time to be realistic while planning for tomorrow!!

(The Writer, a noted Magement Economist, and an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Affairs, attached to the West Bengal State University, can be reached at

Next Story