Global food production and distribution have become a politicised matter, which determines the overall access to food by different countries. The current global food system imposes unequal access to food. Recent food crises mostly impact least developed countries but also have an overall influence on global food security since the modern-day globalisation economy poses strong links between different factors related to food.
The outcomes of hunger imposed by food crises include child malnutrition, diminished population wellbeing, and impaired health. Historically, several food regimes led to significant changes in the global food system. It is argued that the intersection of financing and agriculture, as well as the growing globalisations pressure on local markets, has an adverse impact on food security worldwide, most significantly impacting the least developed countries.
Food systems and agriculture are inherently connected; however, food crises are not to be immediately linked to the collapse of agriculture because food crises are driven by more complex economic and political determinants than the mere agricultural system. Social factors, climate change, and most importantly, financial crises lead to increased prices and diminished access to food by under-developed countries. The overall advancement and financial transformation of agriculture caused dependence of local economies of underdeveloped countries with land resources on transnational corporations which rule the global food system by means of market forces.
The modern agrarian economy is based on the commodification of agriculture as a trend in the global economy. Agriculture has influenced the development of the capitalist economy of the world from socio-economic and political perspectives. Firstly, capitalism eliminated peasantry as a class and produced agrarian capital, land ownership, and “agricultural wage labour.” Secondly, the emerging capitalistic changes in agriculture led to peasants’ resistance and their willingness to occupy a place in the market of food production. The subsequent changes in the development of agriculture are commonly called food regimes.
Food Crises Drivers
The theory of food regimes implies that since the inception of the capitalist economy, the world has faced several common shifts in the merge of agriculture, trade, and finance. The theory of food regimes has provided insights into the core intersection of several driving forces that have led to the contemporary neoliberal globalisation, and food insecurity as its main consequence. Thus, the theory of food regimes allows for defining historically relevant drivers of food crises within the framework of the global economy and market forces.
The History of First and Second Food Regimes as Food Crises Drivers
The first food regime emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and was impacted by the agricultural development of colonial nations. Being originated as a British-ruled price-governed market, this regime started the agricultural export allowing exploiting lands of colonies to supply food for importing countries. As a consequence, the first food regime introduced significant global economic shifts by dividing the world into countries that export and import food. International trade allowed for the emergence of industrial capital and finance capital. Also, it imposed the international division of labour and class segmentation. The first regime collapsed due to the decrease of food prices and led to further industrialisation as the basis of the second regime.
During the next period, surplus cheap food produced by colonies was distributed to the global South as aid. This period was marked by the ubiquitous utilisation of pesticides and fertilisers to produce a variety of grains and gained the title of Green Revolution, in which the USA played the leading role. The post-war United States’ economic strategy was based on free trade, which allowed for US’ dominance in the international food economy and consequently intimidated the local agriculture of the countries of Asia and Africa.
The global implications of the second food regime are explained by the fact that “the development of industrial agriculture oriented to the global market weakened peasant agriculture and increased the power of large landowners.” As a consequence, large corporations worldwide began to adopt the industrial, agrarian pattern used by the US, which has led to the occurrence of the third food regime.
Financialisation of Food Production and Distribution
McMichael calls the third food regime a corporate food regime due to the active inclusion of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the body that institutionalises the relation between agriculture and finance. From the author’s perspective, in the contemporary neoliberal economy, the rights of transnational corporations are elevated above the rights of farmers and peasants. Indeed, during the third food regime, the capital and the power of influence are concentrated in the hands of monopolists who rule the global food prices, leaving the distribution of nutritious products to market forces. Therefore, the engagement of a state with “agriculture and food can be understood as being structured within wider world-historical dynamics of capitalist accumulation.”
Global Food Prices
The global expansion of supermarkets has led to a more distinguished concentration of the power over global food systems in the hands of big corporations. As the case of India demonstrates, the dominance of supermarkets impose vertical subordination and limits the opportunities for farmers to participate freely in the food market. Local farmers face strong competition from the side of big firms and corporations, which diminished the contribution of domestic agriculture to the countries’ food supply. Such tendency in obstructing the development of domestic farms leads to the prevalence of globally imposed prices for food that is one of the drivers of the food crisis.
Since the globalisation and the prevalence of corporate policies in food production regulation are tied to financial markets, the stability in food systems vastly depends on the situation on the financial market and organizational technologies. For example, Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar), East Asian countries and India attract more investment than other countries demonstrating uneven distribution of investment in agriculture. Consequently, many developing countries have limited developing opportunities and consequently cannot afford nutritious food.
Unsustainable Food Production
Importantly, the current corporate food regime is based on ecologically-unfriendly processes that use fossil fuels, damage the environment, and use unsustainable development strategy. Such a tendency imposes a vicious circle obstructing the advancement in agriculture due to the adverse impact of industrialisation of the environment. Such an unsustainable approach to food production is also one of the drivers of food crises.
Other contributors, apart from economic ones include water scarcity, growing population, waste, and climate change. Indeed, humanity now experiences continuous exhaustion of natural resources due to the rapidly increasing population. Environmental pollution causes climate change that is unfavourable for agriculture. All of these issues contribute to food crises and are addressed through each state’s and global community’s responses.
Responses to Food Crises
Severe hunger in many developing countries requires immediate action to avert the negative outcomes of the identified drivers. The case of Sierra Leone and Liberia demonstrate that the households cut their expenditures on non-food items to afford nutritious products. In order to survive the rise in global food prices, these countries had to reduce the consumption of micronutrients that negatively impacted the population’s health.
The case of Kenya shows that the dependence of the country’s export of agricultural products within the value chain model imposes vulnerability due to increased food prices. Droughts have led to poor harvest and undermined the achievement of export goals, thus causing inflation and increased food prices.
Also, the case of Niger demonstrates that the currently utilised market-based distribution of food is harmful to countries remote from food supplies. Similarly to Kenya, Niger’s focus on producing the crops in which the land is rich, as well as the utilisation of other stimulating policies, does not help overcome the threats of hunger. Therefore, it is necessary to use international tools to help eliminate the food crisis. International organisations initiate an action plan for reducing hunger through increased investment in local economies to ensure food security through sustainable development. IAASTD initiates sustainable advancement of agriculture in developing countries and plans worldwide disconnection of business and agriculture.
Another response to food crises is the movement for food sovereignty as the right of people to have equal access to quality food. Overall, such movement promotes agriculture without corporations and farmers but intends to return agriculture to peasants. On a global scale, the efforts for smooth global supplies, regional food reserves, and mobilisation of international assets to help nations in huger are made. The shift in food systems toward equity of access to food on a global scale is the priority of the agriculture and food international organisations that need to concentrate on supporting developing countries.
In summation, global food crises that cause severe hunger in developing countries are driven by such historically imposed determinants. They include such economic factors as historical implications of food regimes, financialisation of food production, global food prices, neoliberal globalisation, and unsustainable development. Non-economic factors, such as climate change, waste, growing population, and exhaustion of natural resources also have their impact. The global community responds to food crises by increasing investment in developing economies, facilitating sustainability in agriculture, and disconnecting business from food systems.
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