Our world is approaching a food insecurity tipping point. With the invasion of Ukraine and the rising costs of gas and many other products integral to food production, this is a national security concern for countries across the globe. And the problem goes beyond food insecurity: Lack of access to food is a proven multiplier of violence, rioting and many other perils. As environmental analyst and food economics expert Lester Brown once stated: The firmest indicator of political instability, revolution, coups d’état and interstate warfare is the price of grain.
Globally, Ukraine and Russia account for about 30% of wheat and 20% of corn exports. Of course, it’s unlikely that Ukraine will be able to harvest its crops, plant new ones and sustain usual livestock levels. Plus, any production that does happen is desperately needed domestically.
Ukraine also supplies half of the grain used by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Just a few months ago, the WFP provided food rations to 125 million people. That number has dropped by 4 million. In war-torn Yemen, the organization first cut rations in half, but now it’s on the brink of having none at all — a situation that WFP Executive Director David Beasley calls “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.”
Haiti is deeply dependent on imports and has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. Between March and June 2022, 45% of its population will suffer severe hunger. The WFP representative in Haiti, Pierre Honnorat, stated that this will push citizens to extreme measures, including migration and sexual exploitation.
Here in the United States, the Department of Agriculture is projecting the cost of groceries will rise 4-7% by the end of the year. Of course, families that are already living paycheck-to-paycheck will be hit the hardest. Plus, many people will turn to less-nutritious foods, which tend to be cheaper, but at the expense of their overall health.
Globally, if things continue this way, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations expects the number of undernourished people around the world to increase by as much as 13 million by the end of 2023, with a particular impact in Asia, the Middle East, and North and sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, hunger is hugely consequential and a strong motivation for change. If these challenges are not resolved soon, there is likely more trouble to come.
Every able nation must do its part to reduce food insecurity both domestically and globally. This means refusing to hoard products and limit exports, while prioritizing open and transparent supply chains. Governments and key organizations must help by bridging the financial gap between food prices and what people are able to pay, as well as by maximizing available excess food.
Here at ASCM, we will continue supporting networks around the world by connecting them with essential education, thought leadership and industry best practices so they have the skills and knowledge necessary to make an impact through supply chain.