There are new reports of food shocks to strike the world a lot more often than in the past. Normally, these events happen once a century, usually with catastrophic snowball effects on distribution, food availability and price.
Food shocks are dramatic changes that effect food production. These usually affect the four biggest commodities that we humans want: rice, soybean, maize and wheat. If we are to listen to the newest analysis and data that studies these phenomena, shocks like these are likely to happen about every 30 year. That means they will be three times more common than at the present moment.
The UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience – the agency that is responsible for this current study – has stated that if nothing is done to prevent or tune down climate change, we may be looking at a dire situation. By the year 2040, we may reach unsustainable levels of production, and unfathomable needs for food.
This growing need for food is due to many factors. Population overgrowth is one, but there are many others. The most frightening fact about the probable upcoming food shortage is that it could lead to increased global geopolitical instability.
Tim Benton, population ecology Professor at the Leeds University in the UK, says that while demand is on the rise, supply is increasingly difficult, and climate change only worsens the already alarming situation the food market is in. In the case of such a food shock, predictions say that prices of the major food commodities could jump by as much as 50%.
Needless to say this is not good. And the most affected, the co-author Rob Bailey says, will be the underdeveloped countries such as those in sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle-East. These countries are already mostly in a state of political instability, and food shortage would worsen the situation for them. Many of the families in these areas are spending more than half of their monthly income on food. If prices rise as predicted, it would be a disaster.
To this extent, the UN issued a scolding warning last year that if the production of food on a global level will not rise by 60% in the next 35 years, then we will be looking at a major crisis. This crisis could entail anything from protests, social unrest, and poverty to street fights over foods and even civil wars.
Some of the underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia are already in a state of civil war, while others have just attained periods of prolonged peace. For these nations, a food shock of 10% (as would be the worst case scenario) would be catastrophic.
Image source: sciencemag.org