Food insecurity has reached an unprecedented level in many regions of the world and shortages have become a regular occurrence in everyday life. Consequently, undernourishment is a looming threat globally!
According to the World Food Programme, nearly 350 million people across 79 countries are currently facing acute food insecurity. This is ten times more than five years ago. Almost one in five of them are struggling to access enough food to survive the day. The prevalence of undernourishment as measured by the UN agencies was 9.1 per cent in 2021.
The impact of the food shock is felt everywhere. The situation, according to the UN News, is expected to worsen, with global food supplies projected to drop to a three-year low. The need is especially dire in 24 countries that are identified as hunger hotspots, 16 of which are in Africa.
Extreme weather events, disruptions in the supply chain, Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and rising interest rates resulting in food inflation have all caused an unprecedented shock to the world food system, with the most vulnerable hit the toughest. Global fertilizer prices have climbed even faster than food prices, which remain at a ten-year high themselves.
A perusal of some of the regions in the world brings to the fore the frequency and severity of natural disasters, the level to which wars have wreaked havoc in people’s lives, and how they have limited the quantity and quality of food available to people there.
According to available data between October 2022 and February 2023, food price inflation levels rose above 5 per cent in 94.1 per cent of low-income countries, 86 per cent in lower-middle-income countries, and 87.0 per cent in upper-middle-income countries, and many others are experiencing double-digit inflation.
Projections are that nearly 670 million people, which is eight per cent of the world population, will still be facing hunger in 2030 even if a global economic recovery is taken into consideration.
The March 2023 edition of the Agricultural Market Information System Market Monitor underscores the uncertainty hanging over agricultural markets as the war in Ukraine continues. Reduced Ukrainian production suggests that other countries will need to plant additional grains and oilseeds to help rebuild global stocks and ease prices.
Countries in Africa and the Middle East are heavily dependent on wheat imports from these two countries as it is traditionally used in some of the most common food staples.
Food is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN's development agenda for the 21st century. The second of the UN's 17 SDGs is to "End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture."
Countries like the Sultanate of Oman devote utmost attention to the issue of food security and food supply and has developed a wide array of plans and programs focused on the security and sustainability of food supply for nationals and expatriates.
According to the latest Global Food Security Index, Oman’s food security situation improved the most in the world. It was ranked 35th in the world in the index in 2022 and fourth in the Middle East and North Africa region.
The 2040 Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy in Oman seeks to promote the agricultural sector sustainability, increase economic revenues, create job opportunities for nationals, support rural communities, and limit structural imbalances in the agricultural sector.
Similarly, the Food Security Strategy sets forth a set of objectives seeking generally to enhance Oman’s food security system in terms of production, import, storage, and distribution. It focuses on three key themes, namely food demand, local food production, and securing imports.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author who has worked in India and Gulf countries