Countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan face severe localized food insecurity as the world witnesses the worst threats to global food security in decades, the Asian Development Bank (AfDB) said recently.
In an article published on Monday, the Mania-based multinational lender said that currently millions of people are facing chronic food shortages.
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Record spikes in food and fuel prices threaten to push many low-income families, who spend a large part of their family budget on these commodities, into extreme poverty.
Asia and the Pacific are in the eye of this storm with half of the world’s 600 million people classified as hungry living in the region.
In Sri Lanka, food price inflation has exceeded 90% and, combined with a debt crisis, threatens to plunge millions of people into a prolonged period of hunger and poverty, while countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan face severe localized food insecurity, the AfDB said.
“A perfect storm of events has combined to create the worst threats to global food security in decades, underscoring the need for coordinated action to stem a worrying rise in hunger and to address longer-term challenges. for the very future of sustainable food production.”
Pressures on food security come from multiple sources.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the main driver of food price inflation, but other factors are at play, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted food supply chains, challenges macroeconomic conditions and the imposition of trade restrictions by some countries which affected the availability of a number of foodstuffs.
Above these questions looms the even greater challenge of climate change which is already having profound and lasting impacts on agricultural production, with a recent study showing that global agricultural productivity has been suppressed by 21% due to climate extremes.
While some food prices and trade restrictions eased in July 2022 and grain shipments from Ukraine resumed, prices remain sharply high compared to a year ago and food security prospects remain deeply uncertain, the AfDB said.
The increased cost and decreased availability of fertilizers due to the Russian-Ukrainian war is a major concern.
“Short-term food security issues are not independent of long-term challenges, and while food price increases are seen as a particularly acute threat today, the food security problem could become systemic in negative impact of climate change on agriculture,” said Qingfeng Zhang, head of the AfDB’s Rural Development and Food Security Thematic Group, in the article.
The increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events, meanwhile, is alarming. In India, the world’s second largest wheat producer, drought conditions are expected to lead to an 8% drop in yields in 2022 and Bangladesh experienced devastating floods in May and June 2022 which created severe food shortages.
“If our region and the rest of the world are to prevent this crisis from causing even more hunger and misery, we must act together to ensure a coordinated release of food stocks, facilitate open and smooth trade, provide social safety nets to the most vulnerable, and help smallholder farmers maintain current agricultural production, while making longer-term investments in food systems to make them more productive, sustainable and resilient to climate extremes,” Zhang said.
“Anything less would jeopardize the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the critically important goal of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”