Factors affecting food supply

Global food supply is not even. Some places produce more food than others.

There are many reasons why some countries produce more food than others:

  • Climate – global warming is increasing temperatures by around 0.2°C every 10 years. Rainfall is increasing in some places, but decreasing in others. Higher temperatures and unreliable rainfall make farming difficult, especially for those farming marginal lands, who already struggle to survive. Even developed countries can be affected by drought. Countries such as Russia and Australia are huge exporters of wheat and barley respectively. When they suffer drought there is less food available globally and global food prices increase, leaving the poor most vulnerable.
  • Technology – improvements in technology have increased the amount of food available. Technology can overcome temperature, water and nutrient deficiencies in the form of greenhouses, irrigation and fertilisers. High income countries (HICs) import food from across the globe, all year round. However, the growth of the biofuel market is taking up valuable farmland.
  • Pests and diseasepesticides have increased crop yields. Farmers in wealthier countries can afford pesticides, whereas most farmers in poorer countries cannot afford them.
  • Water stressirrigation systems provide water for countries with unreliable or low rainfall. Irrigation can double crop yields, but it is expensive to put these systems in place. Water can be taken either from underground aquifers or directly from rivers. Both have environmental consequences.
  • Conflict – war forces farmers to flee their land or to fight in conflict. Food can be used as a weapon, with enemies cutting off food supplies in order to gain ground. Crops can also be destroyed during fighting. Food shortages have caused riots and conflict, eg the Darfur region has faced conflict for many years because of disagreements over land and grazing rights.
  • Poverty – when people have less money, they cannot afford food and they become unable to work. Families in developing countries spend much of their income on food.

Impacts of food insecurity

Food security is when the entire population of a country has access to enough safe and nutritious food to maintain an active life. The opposite is food insecurity which is a problem for lots of different countries. Countries that do not have enough food to feed everyone usually have other associated issues to overcome. Some impacts of food insecurity include:

  • Famine – the World Food Programme recognises three types of hunger. Undernutrition is when people do not consume enough calories. Globally, 805 million people are undernourished. Malnutrition is when people do not eat enough of the right kind foods to keep them healthy. The third type of hunger is wasting. This is the most serious type of hunger as it can go on for a long time. Hunger can eventually lead to mass starvation or famine.
  • Soil erosion - the removal of soil occurs more rapidly in areas that are very dry. Food insecurity can lead to soil erosion as farmers try to get more out of their land. Deforestation, overgrazing and over-cultivation expose the soil and make it vulnerable to erosion.
  • Rising prices – when there is less food available, the prices of food increase. Global food prices increased between 2000 and 2015. Poorer countries are more vulnerable to increasing food prices.
  • Social unrest – everyone needs to eat and so when food supplies are low people have to fight for their survival. Riots in Algeria in 2011 were sparked by high food prices. The prices of cooking oil, sugar and flour doubled within the space of a few months.
Riots in Algeria were sparked by high food prices.
Riots in Algeria were sparked by high food prices.