Perfect storm looms for the global food system – Oxfam

2011-05-31 09:07

Paris – Oxfam has called for an overhaul of the world’s food system, warning that in a couple of decades, millions more people would be gripped by hunger due to population growth and climate-hit harvests.

A “broken food system” means that the price of some staples will more than double by 2030, battering the world’s poorest people, who spend up to 80% of their income on food, the British-based aid group predicted.

“The food system is buckling under intense pressure from climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products, and competition for land from biofuels, industry, and urbanisation,” Oxfam said in a report.

It added: “The international community is sleepwalking into an unprecedented and avoidable human development reversal.”

Noting that 900 million people experience hunger today, Oxfam said the tally of misery could rise still further when a “perfect storm” struck a few decades from now.

By 2050, the world’s population was expected to rise by a third, from 6.9 billion today to 9.1 billion.

Demand for food would rise even higher, by 70%, as more prosperous economies demanded more calories.

But by this time, climate change will have started to bite, with drought, flood and storms affecting crop yields that, after the “green revolution” of the 1960s, had already begun to flatline in the early 1990s.

The price of staple food such as maize, which has already hit record peaks, will more than double in the next 20 years, it predicted.

“In this new age of crisis, as climate impacts become increasingly severe, and fertile land and fresh water supplies become increasingly scarce, feeding the world will get harder still,” said Oxfam chief Jeremy Hobbs.

The report, Growing a Better Future, trails a campaign for reform that Oxfam is launching in 45 countries, supported by former Brazilian president Lula Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and actress Scarlett Johansson.

Solutions envisaged by Oxfam focus on cutting out waste, especially of water, and curbing agriculture and biofuel subsidies in rich countries.

The report also calls for prising open closed markets and ending the domination of commodities and seeds trade by a handful of large corporations.

Small farms – traditionally dismissed as a hindrance to food productivity – could in fact drive the renaissance in yield with the help of investment, infrastructure and market access, it argued.

Just as important, said the report, is to set up new global governance to tackle food crises, including the creation of a multilateral food bank.

“During the 2008 food price crisis, cooperation was nowhere to be seen,” lamented the report, saying the disarray ignited a “grab” for agricultural land in Africa by parched countries in the Gulf and elsewhere.

“Governments were unable to agree on the causes of the price rises, let alone how to respond. Food reserves had been allowed to collapse to historic lows,” it said.

“Existing international institutions and forums were rendered impotent as more than 30 countries imposed export bans in a negative-sum game of beggar-thy-neighbour policy making.” 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.