Shortages of food throughout the world are the result of uneven distribution of natural resources. Occasionally, this can be caused by crop failure due to droughts; but, more often, it is caused by institutional decisions. The reality is that the world currently produces enough food to feed every person on Earth, but the distribution of that food comes with many obstacles. The two largest distributors of food are natural resource endowments and human institutions.
Natural resource endowments are the amount of food resources a country has to feed its people. The government typically has a large influence on these endowments and distribution. Human institutions include the government, public policy, and aid organizations. These organizations create systems of distribution to help move national endowments where are needed but also to import and export food resources when necessary.
Thailand is an example of a government that has abundant access to natural resources and many well-organized human institutions to manage them. On the other hand, Japan is an industrialized country with a large need for food resources, their human institutions need to import food to provide for their people. The government also provides subsidies to farmers to grow staples, like rice, so they do not need to be as dependent on imports.
An example of human institutions doing this work is the United Nations with initiatives meant to address food scarcity though the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Food scarcity is a major issue during times of war. Using the Japanese example above, as the country is dependent on other natural resource endowments to provide for its people, it is potentially more susceptible to food scarcity if it was to be involved in a conflict.
Another barrier to reducing food scarcity is a country’s sovereignty. An aid organization can attempt to help a country with their distribution and production of food but, ultimately, it is within the country’s authority to define that scope. These choices are complex and multi-faceted, however, it is undeniable that some can hinder the efforts of other to combat food scarcity.
Even if human institutions can combat food scarcity and enact real change, there is still the concern that there will no longer be enough food available to sustain the world population. The world population is predicted to continue its increasingly fast growth. Human institutions not only need to focus on distribution, but they also need to consider what they can do to increase production.
The global pandemic reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, many of the effects of the pandemic are still present. As mentioned before, food security depends on distribution of resources, with the global supply chain unable to keep up with demands, many communities and countries have struggled to maintain food security or mitigate food scarcity.
Additionally, many countries have experienced inflation and price gouging because of this disruption to the supply and demand chain. The World Bank conducted phone surveys and found that 72 countries show a significant number of people running out of food or reducing their consumption during and following the pandemic. Some human institutions, like the World Bank, have been working to minimize these effects of the pandemic. The World Bank has financed many projects to monitor, supply, and prevent food scarcity.
Major concerns surrounding the issue of food scarcity are distribution, production, and population increase. Human institutions and governments work together, and sometimes apart, to address these issues. Natural disasters and the global pandemic also added an extra layer of complexity to the issue.
COVID-19 Household Monitoring Dashboard. (n.d.). Retrieved from World Bank: https://www.worldbank.org/en/data/interactive/2020/11/11/covid-19-high-frequency-monitoring-dashboard
Food Security and COVID-19. (2022, January 31). Retrieved from The World Bank:https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture/brief/food-security-and-covid-19
Tan, J. (n.d.). Global Food Scarcity:Definition, Distribution, Roadblocks . Retrieved from Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources : https://sdn.unl.edu/global-food-scarcity
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021: The world is at a critical juncture. (n.d.). Retrieved from Food and Agriculture Organization: https://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition