Food security is the ability to guarantee permanent access to nutritious food, as well as sustainable production processes. It means more than providing food for people in a certain place or nation. In an increasingly global society, we are all interconnected. Geopolitical events on the other side of the world can have lasting effects on people far away, although global food production and distribution are not well understood by the general public.
Here are five important facts you may not know about food security and food production:
- The idea of food security is not new.
The concept of food security was born in Europe during the First World War. The wide-ranging conflicts and resulting scarcity of this period highlighted the importance of being careful with food production and supply. The hardships experienced during and immediately after the war made people and nations begin to recognize the need to produce enough food to meet their own population’s demand.
Food security also aims to ensure not only that there is enough food production but also that the food is nutritious, even in the face of biological, physical or chemical threats. These policy actions are the key to improving life for this and future generations. When food security is prioritized, hunger and scarcity become distant threats.
- The United Nations endorses it.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is involved in the protection of Human Rights, especially as relates to nutrition and agricultural production. Endorsed by all countries for more than 70 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established the right to food for all human beings.
Eradicating hunger and malnutrition as outlined in the document, begins with food security. By maintaining sufficient food production for the population, it is possible to ensure that there is no shortage of food anywhere in the global market. In addition, it prioritizes the quality of the products that will reach the final consumer.
- Wars can interfere with the price and availability of food (even in regions not involved in the conflict).
The devastating effects of armed conflicts, such as the current one in which Russia invaded Ukraine, affect the production and distribution of food. This consequently impacts the supply chain and drives up prices, even for regions that are not involved.
The war in Ukraine poses a threat to the staple crops of major European regions that produce wheat and other grains, as well as crop fertilizers. This situation has a direct impact on the food market, inflating the price of these goods. Currently, according to the United Nations, global food costs – already at record highs – could increase by an additional 22% (or more).
The reduction in fertilizer exports from Russia is alarming, threatening the production cycles of most nations. The increase in the price of oil, fundamental in numerous processes of agricultural production, has also generated concern for producers. All these events happening simultaneously mean global food production is in a delicate position.
- Other regions can step up to help with food security.
According to Investopedia, the U.S. is the world’s top food exporter, thanks to high crop yields and extensive agricultural infrastructure. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of maize (corn), the third-largest producer of wheat, fifth-largest producer of potatoes, tenth-largest producer of sugarcane, and twelfth-largest producer of rice.
Latin American countries, especially in recent years, have played a key role in ensuring global food security. According to FAO, Latin America and the Caribbean are pillars of world food security. The organization's data indicate that Latin American regions are responsible for about 14% of all world food production.
According to some studies, Latin America is the only place in the world where growers can produce five crops in two years. This is due to the humid climate, which works even better with irrigation. Irrigation contributes to an increase in productivity elsewhere, of course, but not as many crop cycles are possible in the same period.
Latin American production could supply enough food for its own entire population, but the regions is also one of the world’s largest exporters. In 2014, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Harvest Initiative released a report stating that with ideal climatic conditions, fertile soils and a vast productive area, Latin America is capable of consolidating and becoming the next global breadbasket for food production.
- The size of the field does not always reflect the amount of production possible.
Irrigation technologies are an important method to enhance crop production around the world, ensuring that food reaches every table everywhere. Center pivot irrigation can greatly increase yields for a variety of crops, as the chart below illustrates.