It had been four days since he had last eaten. None could offer him any food. Trudging along the dirt road worn by millions of tired footsteps, the traveler could hardly go on. His energy was lost, and so was his hope. Suddenly, he saw a tiny village in the far-off horizon of the Irish landscape. Food! Water! Oh how the village was scintillating under the scorching sun! He had never seen anything so beautiful! Filled with thoughts of warm bread and hot soup, the traveler's mouth was already watering as he approached the village. He noticed there was not a single person in the streets, no vendors, no shoppers, no children, only rats. The cottages seemed languid, as if they had seen too much through the ages and were now pulled down by the gravity of suffering. The entire village seemed to be in mourning. The traveler approached what seemed to be the village inn and knocked twice. He could hear footsteps and soon a haggard, tired old woman opened the door, her face corrugated with lines, folds and creases of tragedy and anguish. “Please, do you have any food?” the traveler asked. The old woman blinked, and looked at him emptily. Not meeting his yearning eyes, she spoke. “How can we give you any food when our children and grandchildren, and our husbands and wives, are lying in bed, screaming, crying, shrieking, dying for something, anything, to eat?”
If anything, the global food crisis brings misery. This misery is expressed in many different forms, ranging from socio-economic turmoil to physical illnesses. Some of the impacts settle in and cause misery immediately, while others slowly take their toll on countries and require years to recover from. The following are some of the major impacts of the present global food crisis.
Immediate Social Impacts
The food prices have skyrocketed to record high levels direly due to the food crisis, forcing millions of people into deeper poverty and hunger.
According to the United Nations World Food Program, the global food crisis has already dramatically decreased the quality of life worldwide. The World Bank has also released predictions that if such conditions of the food crisis continue, all accomplishments in poverty reduction from 1998-2005 would be completely reversed.
There have been food riots, violence and social unrest in more than forty countries as an immediate effect of the food crisis.
In Yemen, after five days of protest by over 1000 citizens due to rising food prices, the government dispatched tanks to coerce peace. In Cote d'Ivoire, around 1500 protestors chanted “We are hungry”, resulting in at least a dozen people hurt or wounded. Recently, there have also been strikes in Bangladesh protesting for higher pay to contend with the higher food costs.
Long Term Social Impacts
With rapidly rising food prices, those who are fortunate enough spend over 50% of their monthly income on food while those who are less blessed cannot afford any at all.
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick was quoted describing this situation, “In some countries, hard-won gains in overcoming poverty may now be reversed. As an international community we must rally not only to offer immediate support, but to help countries identify actions and policies to reduce the impact on the world's most vulnerable.”
Many people can no longer afford food at such high prices and so resort to stealing food, resulting in a long-term rise in criminal activity.
Demographic changes are also a notable effect of the food crisis. With stock supplies in specific countries running low, many have left their native countries in search of countries with sufficient food. These “food refugees” are putting a strain on the countries that are already having trouble providing food for its own population.
For example, since 1995, many North Koreans have been migrating to China as a result of the North Korean Famine.
Governments have been forced to take action in response to the food crisis by advocating food-for work programs, expanding the national safety net, providing emergency food aid distribution, etc.
Governments have also imposed tariffs, taxes, and import/export bans to protect their own countries from this devastating crisis.
For example, major rice exporters including China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Egypt have imposed strict export bans on rice in order to ensure domestic supply and stop inflation. Other nations such as Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, and Serbia are imposing high tariffs or blocking exports.
Government leaders have also been put under much political pressure due to the many unpleased citizens. The Prime Minister of Haiti resigned his position due to food riots and social unrest caused by high food prices.
Prices of commodities such as crude oil, tin, nickel, soybeans and corn have reached unprecedented highs as economic impacts of the food crisis.
In the period of time between 2006 and 2008, the price of rice in particular has risen by 217%, increasing by 24 cents per pound and making it twice the price it had been just seven months earlier.
Though these are individual food price changes, according to the IMF, there has actually been an average of 43% increase of global food prices since 2007.
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, rising prices have had the greatest effect on the poor, especially those who spend around 50-60% of their income on food.
World Hunger Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran describes the devastating economic impact: “We're seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than before. There is food on the shelves but people are priced out of the market.”
With high rises in prices, many can no longer afford healthy, nutritious food. These people often cannot pay for health care and live in countries that do not provide adequate health services.
These two reasons have caused a sharp decline in health in developing and underdeveloped countries.
There has been an evident increase in child and maternal mortality and morbidity (the condition of being affected by a disease) due to the food crisis. There have also been increasing cases of chronic diseases that hinder mental development, reduce learning ability, and diminish work productivity. Many countries also have rapidly increasing cases of “wasting”, low weight to height ratios, among children.
Food production is rapidly declining all over the world as a result of the food crisis.
For example, farmers in the Kenya Rift Valley have decreased input by 33% due to the rising prices of fertilizers, which in turn leads to decreased food production.
To increase food production, many governments and organizations have increased financial aid for the farmers. The Organization for Economic Cooperation Development's member nations have recently supported farmers with up to $280 billion annually in 2008, significantly more than the $80 billion given in 2004. However, this also is one of the major reasons of increasing food prices. (See Causes)
Increase of Globally Funded Aids
With much of the world suffering from the impacts of the global food crisis, welfare organizations and developed countries have come together to aid those in need with expedient funds
The United Nations claims that it will distribute 8,000 tons of food and aid to those countries in need. At the same time, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is aiming to make up to $200 million available to support poor farmers. Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization already raised $1.2 billion in food aid for 75 million people in 60 countries.
Also last year, former President George W. Bush ordered the release of $200 million of emergency aid to nations most affected by rising food prices.
Through the increase of global funded aids, nations are making a collaborative effort to aid those less fortunate.
The traveler could hardly speak. Dazed, he turned away with a forlorn look in his eye. With no food, and no water, the traveler continued on his journey. What choice did he have? Half a mile later, he saw his dead mother in front of him. Three-quarters of a mile later, he saw his dead father. Both of them had died looking the same, with those hollow cheekbones, those emaciated bodies.