I often find myself having discussions about food security. The availability and access to food is something taken for granted by many of us. We go to the supermarket or butcher and purchase our groceries with little thought that one day an item may not be available; that is until we reach for say the banana’s or strawberry’s and find the shelf empty or can’t find a particular cut of meat. Look to the environment for many causes; flood, drought, cyclones, fire, pests – some of which are of the human variety, if we remember the strawberry dramas of last year. But war, economic instabilty, shipping disruptions and fuel shortages can also play a part.
A household is considered to be food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation; yet it is staggering to think that worldwide there are approximately 852 million people who are chronically hungry due to extreme poverty. In the United States the Economic Research Service estimated in 2012 that 14.5 percent (17.6 million) of US households were food insecure at some point during that year. World-wide many hundreds of thousands of people suffer from intermittent food security problems due to poverty arising from what historically used to be pigeon-holed as being due to civil war and drought. However there are other reasons combining to threaten food security and the more impoverished nations are not the only countries at risk. Listed below are just a few of the issues facing the world’s food producers and by extension, you the consumer. On reading through it quickly becomes apparent what a fragile environment we live in.
The loss of agricultural land to residential and industrial development (population growth).
The increase in agricultural land used for biofuels and depending on the country, export restrictions.
Climate change – natural disasters, floods, droughts, fires.
Growing consumer demand in China and India, which at times can inflate grain prices or lead to mass buying of baby formula.
The growing cost of inputs (oil prices for example) to produce food and associated transport costs. Australia is a big country.
The global credit crisis of the past which has affected farm credits internationally.
Although global per capita food production has been increasing substantially for the past several decades and as of 2006 (MSNCB) the number of overweight people surpassed those undernourished, food is not getting to the people who need it most, nor are governments doing enough to promote the importance of agricultural communities. Next time you open that bottle of chardonnay, dunk a prawn in some seafood sauce or make up some mince for the kids to have on toast, take a moment to explain to your children where the food comes from. Education is the only way to spread the word when it comes to food security; and remember our Australian producers who grow some of the safest and nutritious food in the world.
And don’t waste it!