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Food of want; food of waste Bookmark and Share  
  Author Name : K Ramesh Babu Posted on : July-7-2009 Total Hits: 2277
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It is now official following an UN disclosure that one-sixth of world population has been caught up with hunger. This was resulted after the slowdown and mass unemployment created by low demand and less economic activity in developed and developing regions.


The UN report says, “A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty; with the lower incomes and rising unemployment reducing access to food for the poor.


Charactering it as a “silent hunger crisis,” according to a senior UN official and he said that it threatens world peace and security, highlighting the need for a broad consensus on eradicating global hunger.


“The present situation of world food insecurity cannot leave us indifferent,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf added.


As it seems to be that only demand for food consumption has a hit and the production has not come down and caused the crisis. Since the emergence of financial meltdown in developed world, the slowdown started to seen closely though the slowdown had been there well before the financial crisis battered the advanced economies.


The emerging markets are also no different as during the 2007 budget Indian government was at a catch-22 position neither contain price rise nor dare to reduce fiscal deficit.


However, the story of hungry rise a question what is wrong with economic policies that allow existing contradictory positions equally.


The economic slowdown causes widespread unemployment which in turn reduces capacity to buy food items by the poor. At other side, spiraling rise in prices influence the poor to make a forced reduction in consumption level. This is evident in Indian situation where several state governments announce freebie schemes in favor of poor and rural downtrodden. Since the year 2000 many regimes started to provide cheap food articles at highly subsidized prices.  


However, there is another side which talks about plenty of foods are being wasted by the rich world and there is no slack in production of food items across the globe. Therefore, it is evident that there is mismanagement between the planning and execution.  


The FAO predicts a less vulnerable to shocks this year compared to the last. “In spite of strong gains in recent weeks, international prices of most agricultural commodities have fallen in 2009 from their 2008 heights, an indication that many markets are slowly returning into balance,” the twice-yearly report said.


The report says further that … but food prices remained high in many developing countries, and access to food by the poor also continued to be threatened by loss of employment, income and other effects of the global economic crisis.


So far the improvement largely concerned cereals – the critical sector for food security – after record production in 2008 overshot original forecasts, the report said. The bumper crop had also facilitated replenishment of global reserves to pre-crisis levels, the report finally clarifies.


There fore it is clear that though there will be food shortages with equal presence of wastages that some times overwhelms the shortages.


The brief authored by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Water Management Institute shows that the current food crisis is less a crisis of production than a crisis of waste. Tossing food away is like leaving the tap running, the authors say.


"More than enough food is produced to feed a healthy global population. Distribution and access to food is a problem - many are hungry, while at the same time many overeat," the brief states. But, it says, "We are providing food to take care of not only our necessary consumption but also our wasteful habits."


In poorer countries, a majority of uneaten food is lost before it has a chance to be consumed. Depending on the crop, an estimated 15 to 35 percent of food may be lost in the field. Another 10 to15 percent is discarded during processing, transport and storage, the brief states. In richer countries, production is more efficient but waste is greater, the report says. "People toss the food they buy and all the resources used to grow ship and produce the food along with it." In the United States, for instance, as much as 30 percent of food, worth some US$48.3 billion, is thrown away.


More than half the food produced today is lost, wasted or discarded because of inefficiency, UNEP said in a report launched in Nairobi on 17 February.

"There is evidence … that the world could feed the entire projected population growth alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet," Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said at the launch of The Environmental Food Crisis: The Environment's Role in Averting Future Food Crises.
The report, which details a seven-point plan to reduce hunger and rising food insecurity, was released during the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum from 16 to 20 February.

Recycling food waste and deploying new technologies - aimed at producing bio-fuels - could be a key environmentally friendly alternative to increased use of cereals for livestock, notes the report.


Since the alternative lies before us is to revamp the current system of distribution to create an inclusive system to avoid further loss of depletion of natural wealth.


Poor and emerging economies should increase more subsidies on food that is to be distributed among less privileged. Issuing of food security smart cards to the poorer sections region wise might improve targeted distribution system’s efficiency. The recent UIP card enthusiasm should include poorer sections data base to annul the bogus beneficiaries. Remembering there is still a nearly 30% poor people reside in the country; since India should act before preach to others on the subject. 


Food of want and food of waste should not co-exist as it remark stark reality of emphatic failure of human race as a whole.   

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