Global food crises have severely affected political and economic structures and institutions that are fundamental in regulating and alleviating the impacts of such crises.
The impacts of global food crisis have triggered immense policy reformation and institutions geared towards helping vulnerable countries in coping with hunger. Political economy approach entails incorporating political and economic policies aimed at finding a lasting solution to the human crises and sustainable development. “Political economy focuses on the distribution of power and wealth between different groups, and individuals, and on the processes that create, sustain, and transform these relationships over time” (Collinson 1). The application of political economy perspective in the crises seeks to corroborate political and economic relationship in influencing power and wealth distribution. Power and wealth distribution are imperative in addressing global food crisis that is subject to political and economic stability in varied nations. Global food crisis has direly affected agricultural production, distribution, and consumption of food. This realization raises the question of the importance of political economy perspective in understanding the scope of global food crisis.
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Global food crisis is threatening human existence. Over time, there has been gradual decrease in agricultural food production due to climatic changes and changing life styles of the people. People are shifting from agricultural production to service industries where they increase consumption pressure on meager production of food.
Furthermore, with increased population, there is concomitant increase in food demands, encroachment, and fragmentation of agricultural farms that significantly affect food production. Fragmented agricultural farms are very uneconomical in food production since they discourage mechanization due to high fuel prices. These factors amongst others are responsible for the rising food prices that have resulted in global food crisis. “Long before this crisis, more than 850 million people worldwide were already undernourished…hunger and malnutrition cause 3.5 million child deaths every year” (World Vision 1). These figures are so high, making food crisis to be a global issue that warrants political and economic intervention.
Alarming trends of food crisis all over the world have prompted many nations to seek a lasting solution, by focusing their attention on political and economic influence to determine distribution of wealth and power. Although food crisis had existed over a long period of history, it has now become a global crisis due to the effects of globalization such as political and economic powers, which determine food and fuel prices. Developing countries begun to experience the international pressure over the past three decades; however, the pressure has hit top levels in the recent past. Borras argues that, it is “a triple squeeze, namely: through globalization, with some regulatory powers being increasingly ceded to international regulatory institutions; through the partial decentralization of central political, fiscal and administrative powers to local counterparts; and through the privatization of some functions (11). In effect, the loss of power to international institutions, decentralization of resources and privatization of powers are political economic factors that have worsened political and economic stability of developing countries making them more vulnerable to the global food crisis. Changing global trends of institutional structures that aid the developing countries to enter into political and economic mainstream of the world, pose great threats because of manipulation by powerful countries. Localization due to the self-interests of the developing nations and decentralization pressure due to globalization affects production, distribution, and consumption of agricultural foods.
The current food crisis is unique from past crises since it was caused by fluctuation of rainfall and natural disasters such as floods, pests, storms, and volcanic activities. Additionally, experts warn that rising fuel prices and climate change are the impending factors that are posing significant threat to agricultural food production, all over the world. Critically, climatic change and rising fuel prices are big issues of international concern, which require intervention from a political economic perspective of the world. Rao observes that, the increase in food prices in the recent past “produced deep distress among hundreds of millions of the poor and food-insecure across the world might also be seen as a needed warning to the national and international powers of the costs of gross disregard and fragile palliatives” (1280). He attributes the current state of global food crisis to poor political and economic strategies that has led to improper subsidization of agricultural produce and income inequalities because of globalization. Therefore, current global food crisis is not only due to the climate change, but also due to changing political and economic policies, which unfavorably affect fuel and food prices.
Political and Economic Dimensions
Global food crisis has attracted immense attention from the economic and political circles because it affects human resources and undermines the basic rights of the people to access food. The crisis affects the economic development of a country since unhealthy nations do not marshal effective human resources imperative for sustainable economic growth. In efforts to address global food crisis, political and economic perspectives focused on four main issues; namely, enhancing agricultural production, promotion of trade, use of alternative sources energy and regulation of pollution. Global food crisis is not only the consequence of climatic changes but “it is also the consequence of deep rooted long-term trends arising from changing demographics and consumption patterns and years of systemic failures of development strategy on many fronts” (United Nations 5).
Since poor development strategies cause global food crisis, the use of political economy perceptive in reformation of policies in the view of alleviating food crisis, is very appropriate. The primary focus of addressing global food crisis is in agricultural production. There has been continued economic negligence of agricultural production of food in both developing and developed countries despite the fact that, world’s population is drastically increasing. The developing countries face increased pressure in trying to meet national and international demands of food consumption thus affecting food security of the nations producing the food. “Food crisis stems from the inherent tensions that exist because the agriculture and food sectors are seen as being unlike any other economic sector” (United Nations 10). Systemic marginalization of agricultural sector from economic mainstream has left farmers perpetually poor, hence resorting to subsistence farming, which cannot sustain a whole nation. In addition, increased population amplifies rate of food consumption thus lowering food security of a nation. Therefore, decreasing agricultural production stems from poor development strategies in that, both the government and private policies have not addressed fundamental issues surrounding agricultural development.
It is quite ironical that developing countries’ economy relies on agriculture yet there is dramatic negligence of farmers and the agricultural sector in general. Global food crisis stems from imbalance in supply and demand due poor trade strategies, an attribute of political and economic failure. Poor trade strategies have resulted into artificial food crisis emanating from manipulation of markets. “It appears that the global food price surge relate to recent volatility and turmoil in global finance, mortgage and housing markets sparked by the collapse of United States subprime markets” (Rao 1284). Appropriate balance in supply and demand ensures a constant link between agricultural production and consumers thus maintaining reasonable food prices. Policies regarding supply and demand require political and economical influence that guarantees achievement of favorable market strategies. Moreover, high fuel prices, which increase agricultural cost of production contributes to the global food crisis. Borras explains that, “high energy prices have made agricultural production and food processing and distribution more expensive by raising the cost of inputs such as fertilizer, seeds, pesticides, farm machinery use and irrigation, as well as of transport and manufacturing processes”(15).
Given that acquisition and regulation of energy prices are subject to the political and economic policies of a country, enactment of favorable structures and institution that regulates energy prices can significantly alleviate global food crisis.
Current State of Food Crisis
Since access to food is amongst basic human rights, world governments through their political and economic strategies are members of the United Nations organizations such as World Food Program (WFP), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and other humanitarian organizations as Red Cross and World Vision amongst others. According to FAO, “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.(United Nation 13). Through political powers of the UN, FAO is setting policies that every nation must conform to, for the attainment of national and world food security. It demands political and economic reforms in the agricultural sector that would enable all nations to comply with its policies. Institutional and structural reforms empower marginalized agricultural sectors and thus enhance production of food as a way of addressing global food crisis.
WFP is another United Nations’ body that deals with storage of food and their distribution to vulnerable nations. Through its reform policies, WFP is advocating its long-term measures that, “governments will need to review and reform existing policies to mitigate the current and potential future impact of high food prices and help the poor farmers benefit from increased demand of food” (Rao 1285). Therefore, WFP utilizes political and economic perspective of the UN and its respective members in enforcing policies that will translates into effective institutions of powers, which can significantly influence development and bring a lasting solution to global food crisis.
Political economic perspectives give a broad and clear view of global food crisis. Global food crisis is a consequence of political and economic factors that influence agricultural production, distribution, and consumption of food. Policies regarding food production and security depend on the political and economic factors, which in turn are quite fundamental in distribution and regulation of prices for consumers to benefit. Food crisis not only emerge when there is insufficient production of food because of natural disasters such climatic change, but also due to poor political and economic structures that have negative effects on agricultural production, trade organization and regulation of fuel prices. Global food crisis therefore, is a complex issue entailing natural, political, and economic factors that affect food production.
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” The Tricontinental Centre Journal 23.3 (2010): 11-20. Print.
Rao, Mohan. “Challenges Facing World Agriculture: A Political Economy Perspective.” Development and Change 40.
6 (2009): 1280-1291. Print. United Nations. “Addressing the Global Food Crisis.” United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2008.
Web. 8 Dec. 2010. unctad.org/en/docs/osg20081_en.pdf> World Vision. “Global Food Crisis.” World Vision Resource Journal 12.2 (2007): 1-23.
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