To borrow the title of Raj Patel’s book , the world is ‘stuffed and starved’ at the same time — and this week served as a stark reminder of the inequalities in the global food system.
In one example, there’s more milk than ever in the US but nowhere left to process it, so farmers across the Upper Midwest are being forced to pour the excess dairy down the drain.
Unlike other supermarket staples that can halt the factory line when the market shifts, cows can’t just turn off their udders. Milk is highly perishable and needs expensive transportation, and farmers don’t have room to store it all themselves. And most large-scale dairy operations aren’t set up to process their own milk or sell it directly to consumers, resulting in the difficult decision to dump it.
America’s Milk Output Is at a Record High
Farmers keep producing more, even as prices come under pressure
On the other hand, the battle to end hunger in the coming years continues, and so far we’re losing it.
The lingering fallout from the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine means about 735 million people — almost a 10th of the global population — were undernourished in 2022, according to United Nations agencies. It looks as if the world will fail to meet its zero-hunger target by the end of the decade. Far too many people simply don’t have adequate access to food.
The number of undernourished people is projected to stay
Source: United Nations, ‘State of Food Security & Nutrition in the World 2023’
* projections for 2025 and 2030
And while there are signs inflation in more countries is cooling , worries remain about food supplies especially with heat waves and drought further threatening crops.
Top rice shipper India is considering banning exports of most varieties as the disruptive El Niño weather pattern returns. Such a move could further push up prices that are already at a two-year high . Many importers would likely turn to Thailand and Vietnam, with the former already set to harvest only one crop this season instead of the usual two.
India Is the World’s Biggest Rice Exporter
Share of global trade in 2022-23
Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service
There’s also continued uncertainty over the Ukraine grain export deal, which is up for renewal in a matter of days.
Moscow has repeatedly threatened to exit the crucial accord that has helped crop cargoes head to countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. The UN Secretary-General said there hasn’t yet been a reply to a letter sent to Russia outlining a proposal on the deal.
Source : Bloomberg July 14th 2023 by Agnieszka de Sousa