THE WORLD NEWS TODAY
Despite a surge of almost 50 percent in food production over the past 20 years and stockpiles of 71 million tons of rice and wheat, India still struggles to feed its people. Only about 40 percent of stockpiled grains reach Indian homes. Corruption and waste are part of the problem.
Plenty of New Agricultural Land
“There is enough space in the world to produce the extra food needed to feed a growing population,” says New Scientist magazine. “And contrary to expectation, most of it can be grown in Africa.”
The magazine cites an agricultural outlook report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. According to the report, the amount of land currently devoted to agriculture worldwide could be more than doubled. “Over half of the additionally available land,” says the report, “is found in Africa and Latin America.”
Eradicating hunger is more than a question of food production. It is estimated that farmers now produce sufficient food to feed 12 billion people—5 billion more than the current population of our planet. The issues are mainly problems related to economics, distribution, and waste
Enough Food, but Malnutrition Persists
Even though world population has increased dramatically, there are over 150 million fewer malnourished people in the poorer countries than there were 20 years ago. “The food supply and the farmers have actually kept up with growth and exceeded it,” says John Lupien, director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “Right now, there’s enough food to feed everyone, if in fact it could get to the people who need it.”
Sadly, reports The Economist, “roughly 780 [million] people in poor countries, one in five of their population, do not get enough to eat. As many as 2 billion people who get enough to fill their bellies nevertheless lack the vitamins and minerals they need. . . . As many as 40,000 young children die every day, partly because malnutrition makes them susceptible to all kinds of disease.” On the other hand, overnutrition is also taking its toll, inducing ailments such as heart disease and certain cancers among wealthier sectors of society.
Hunger Amid Plenty
Because of technical and scientific advances in agriculture, more food is now actually being harvested than the world needs. Yet, the number of hungry people in the world increased to 512 million in 1985. “The increase in hunger is coming at a time when the world is awash with cheap surplus food,” reports The New York Times.
About ten million tons of maize will have to be imported into southern Africa over the next year, reports the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, a regional early warning unit. Its bulletin states: “There is very serious concern regarding the ability of available port, rail, road and storage infrastructure within the region to cope with grain movements of the anticipated magnitude.”
Although the previous year’s production was below average, maize production this year is expected to be 40 percent lower than last year. The drought is possibly the worst to grip southern Africa in this century.
Severe Food Shortages
Late last year, flooding and droughts throughout China led about 20 million of the nation’s inhabitants to face severe food shortages, reports Beijing’s China Daily.
According to an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, unusually severe natural disasters causing major crop damage also threatened another 80 million people in rural provinces. It is estimated that some 114 million acres [46 million ha] of land used for agriculture were damaged over a nine-month period by drought, freezing temperatures, and extensive flooding of the Yangtze River.
“The Paradox of Abundance”
At a recent meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, two UN agencies announced that they will unite their efforts in “one of the largest offensives ever undertaken against worldwide malnutrition.” The Paris daily Le Monde reports that the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization said that they would take action to overcome what they call “the paradox of abundance.”
Although the earth produces enough food to satisfy the nutritional needs of the whole human family, the supply is not distributed in a way that harmonizes with these needs. In Africa, famine daily threatens the lives of 40 million persons. Malnutrition affects 192 million children, and 40,000 of them die each day.