Inadequate mechanisms for securing sufficient food supplies

Other Names:
Inefficient policies to ensure global food security
Analysis of the trends in world food production indicates that the potential exists for an adequate food supply over the next decade provided that both national and international measures are adopted to increase production and productive capacity. But two factors make it imperative that improvements in food production are accompanied by a system of food security. First, countries differ in their ability to respond to the need for increases in food supplies and in the resources at their disposal for importing the required quantities of food. Secondly, fluctuations in food production, arising primarily from irregular weather patterns, imply that even a satisfactory trend of food availability may be interrupted by periods of shortfall.

The breakdown in world food security came about largely because of a system of stockholding which was inadequate to meet an unexpected shortfall in grain supplies in a period of rising demand. The world trading system for grain is dominated by the policies of individual governments with regard to pricing and stocks, and this is likely to continue to be the case in the future. Governments through these policies have a major impact on the allocation of available supplies. Experience has shown that no nation can achieve sustained economic growth and reasonable economic stability in the absence of an assured food supply at reasonable prices.

In the developing countries, inadequate food supplies have in many cases brought overall economic growth to a halt when resources had to be diverted from other development priorities to the import or acquisition of food to maintain the population. In such crises, investment projects have to be abandoned while scarce foreign exchange and external assistances are diverted to short-run survival. The concept of food security embraces both the reduction of risks emanating from unstable production and also provision of mechanisms whereby individual countries can obtain assistance to meet specific problems of food shortages. It includes arrangements for security of supplies in the face of production fluctuation, for price stability, for trade expansion, and for payments facilities. The development of a comprehensive solution to the problem of world food security involves both individual country action on such matters as stockholding, food aid commitments, and trade policies, and international action to coordinate this national action and supplement it, where necessary, by programmes channelled through international agencies. Such a system of food security, if developed, would constitute something in the nature of a charter guaranteeing freedom from famine analogous to the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. The most important elements of a world food security policy are: the establishment of a food information and early warning system; a coordinated system of national stock policies embodied in an International Undertaking on World Food Security; better arrangements for meeting requirements of emergency food supplies; and the reorganization of food aid as a continuing form of assistance.

Since the crop failures, the severe regional food shortages, and the drawdown of the world's grain reserves of the early 1970s, much international attention has been given to the need for more effective management of grain reserves to provide security against fluctuations in food supply. The crop failures and grain shortages of 1980 lend new urgency to this subject. With a rapidly growing world population, agriculture in many regions will spread into more and more marginal lands, where fluctuations in production are most likely and severe. In this situation, the effects of a year or two of bad weather can be critical. The recently passed Food Security Act is a step in the right direction, but more is needed. A major factor influencing world food security is the size of cereal stocks. It is the combination of production falling below consumption requirements with the consequent severe rundown of cereal stocks and rises in cereal prices which caused a global alert.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET