Food security can be analyzed at three mutually supportive levels. The first is at the global level where issues of aggregate supplies intersect with trade policies, global ecological constraints, and productive capacities. The second is at the national or regional level where agricultural policies, local resource endowments, local weather and climatic patterns, and national policies all play a key role. In some cases, regions and sub-regions (for example in Sub-Saharan Africa) suffer from periodic droughts and other disruptions to food supply causing famine and inadequate supply. The third is at the level of the household where intra-household distribution of food can be affected by overall household income and by levels of education and social and cultural norms. Understanding food security requires a deep understanding at all three levels and is both an issue of food supply and of income. In many parts of the world individual food security is a matter of inadequate income.
Demand for, and the delivery of, food commodities is undergoing major transformative changes. As disposable income rises in many parts of the world the demand for new dietary requirements change. In particular, the demand for livestock will increase placing new pressures on available land and water resources. New supply chains are entering the marketplace and replacing traditional markets: the rise of supermarkets as part of the food value chain is a recent phenomena now affecting many parts of the world. Constraints on the supply side include low and highly variable productivity, limited new land expansion opportunities, the impact of climate change and weather variability; and the rising cost of water and land. Pressure on land (and aquatic resources) will also heighten concerns over food safety as well as food security. A major effort will be required to stem the loss and waste of food commodities in both the rich and poor world (currently about one third of all food produced is wasted).
In sum, the next few decades will be challenging. It will require new science, new institutional arrangements and new farming practices linked to the growth of commercial value chains and emphasis not only on the quantity of food produced but also on the quality and safety of food. With rising land and water costs, attention to safety, and the need to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture it is hard to imagine that we will live in a world dominated by low cost food: prices will inevitably rise: a boom for the producers but a challenge for poor consumers.
New challenges will raise new risks. These include production variability due to weather and climatic changes; competition for land; productivity gains and losses as agriculture intensifies; price variability; food safety outbreaks and public health issues management; local value chain management risks; and trade barriers including concerns on carbon and water content and subsidies. The “new” 21st Century farmer will face management challenges to meet quality and quantity food delivered to the market or supermarket. Consumers will become more price conscious, more prudent in their purchase and storage of food; and those with inadequate income to meet basic needs will require supportive public policies as food prices rise to reflect the new production realities of the coming decades.
Category: Food security: Food industry