The year 2023 is going to be remembered for a global famine. According to the World Food Program (WFP), there were 282 million people facing extreme food insecurity at the end of 2021. At the end of 2022, it stood at around 345 million. Fifty million people might face starvation at the start of 2023 if the current trajectory is followed, as governments continue to struggle with slow economic growth and the after-effects of Covid-19.
According to Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, the world may soon experience a scarcity of food because of a rise in the price of food. The production of nitrogen fertilizer has significantly decreased as a result of harsh restrictions placed on natural gas exports from Russia, which is a critical component of the global food production. Productivity among farmers, as well as crop replacements and fertilizer usage, have all seen considerable drops in recent years.
This year, people are bound to experience hunger for a variety of reasons. Agriculture would be very difficult to practice in places like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Yemen, which are now experiencing civil conflict. The floods in Pakistan and the drought in the Horn of Africa are two instances of the increasing frequency of extreme weather events that are induced by climate change.
Poverty is the most critical issue to be addressed in a sizable percentage of the world. Even highly industrialized nations like the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as significant agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and India, are not immune to this problem. As a consequence of the combination of rising expenses and a faltering global economy, a great number of people are going to have a difficult time affording the food they need.
The consequences of not getting enough food might be severe. When one goes without food for an extended period of time, their risk of developing chronic ailments, such as diabetes and heart disease, rises. Malnutrition is a more complicated condition than just not having enough to eat, which is what leads to skeletal appearances. The poor, particularly in metropolitan areas, have a greater likelihood of becoming obese because they choose cheaper, pre-packaged meals over those that are higher in nutritional value.
The worst affected are women. They are more likely to be underprivileged and skip meals to provide for their family. According to the FAO, in 2021, 31.9% of women worldwide had moderate to severe “food insecurity,” compared to 27.6% of males, and that difference is growing. Gender inequality and food poverty are intertwined — men in Somalia claimed to be eating smaller meals, while women claimed to be missing meals entirely.
Starvation slows the growth of the brain and weakens the immune system in children. A person’s chances of having a healthy and productive life are significantly diminished if they have even a few months of inadequate nutrition when they are children.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the cost of food throughout the world has increased by 65% since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and by 12% in just one year alone since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The destructive impact that war has had on food distribution networks has led to an increase in the prices of fertilizer and transportation as a direct result of the high rise in the cost of energy. In recent years, the prices of several commodities, including food as well as other things, have been especially badly affected owing to a combination of circumstances, one of which is a protracted drought.
A lengthy Russia-Ukraine conflict, which would further reduce Ukraine’s production as well as the world’s oil and fertilizer supplies, is taken into account in the consensus forecasts for food prices above futures contracts for maize, soy, and sugar. In the meantime, a resolution to the conflict in the near future would enable Ukraine to export grains at levels closer to historic levels and aid in the normalization of trade, energy prices, and fertilizer supply, resulting in prices that are significantly lower than agricultural commodity futures.
There are several factors that are expected to contribute to higher food prices in the coming decades. These include population growth, climate change, and the increasing demand for meat and dairy products. Additionally, as countries become more industrialized and urbanized, their diets tend to shift toward more processed and expensive foods. Furthermore, increased competition for land and water resources, as well as the rising cost of inputs such as fertilizer and fuel, can also contribute to higher food prices.
International politics can have a significant impact on food prices. Trade policies, tariffs, and sanctions can affect the availability and cost of food imports and exports, leading to price fluctuations. Political instability in major food-producing countries can also disrupt food production and distribution, resulting in price increases.
Imran Hosen is a freelance contributor.