Surviving the Scarcity: Current & Future Global Food Shortages

April 17, 2023 5 min read

Global food shortages

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that severe global food shortages are already here. The world is experiencing the greatest number of people going hungry since World War II, according to The World Food Programme (WFP). 

“The number of individuals experiencing acute food insecurity surged to a new height of 345 million in 2022, up from 282 million at the end of 2021,” according to WFP. “This increase is alarming, and as many as 50 million people may begin 2023 on the verge of famine.”

Catastrophic or famine conditions have been reached by over 500,000 individuals in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen, and Madagascar, according to reports.

The world may soon face a severe food shortage, due to several factors affecting global food production. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these factors and explain how world food shortages could lead to higher prices or supply constraints in the US. 

Causes of Global Food Shortages

food shortages in the world

The United Nations has estimated that more than 600 million people worldwide face the threat of starvation today. Unfortunately, progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 is not on track, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) Severity Scale. The main causes of global food shortages include several factors, such as:

Climate Shock and Natural Disasters

The effects of climate change are widespread and have drastically influenced food production globally. Frequent occurrences of extreme weather conditions such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes have contributed to crop failures and food shortages. Moreover, increasing temperatures have adversely affected crop growth and quality, leading to reduced yields and jeopardizing global food security.

For instance, Haiti experienced significant crop and livestock damage in the south and southwest regions after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. In 2019, an invasion of locusts in East Africa resulted in significant damage to crops and pastures. 

Desert locusts have also caused extensive damage in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government and FAO report that the outbreak resulted in the loss of over 3 million metric tons of cereal. It also destroyed over 1.9 million hectares of cropland and over 1 million hectares of pastureland. Over one million Ethiopians now need food help due to these losses.

Similarly, the winter storm that occurred in Texas in 2021 disrupted the production, distribution, and supply of food, causing shortages to occur on a large scale.

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Regional Conflicts and War

Regional conflicts and wars are also giving rise to food shortages. This is due to the challenges associated with agriculture, such as the destruction of crops and farmers leaving conflict zones, coupled with supply chain disruptions. Moreover, trade restrictions resulting from conflicts also hinder the flow of food to affected regions. 

For instance, the ongoing conflict in Yemen has resulted in severe food shortages. According to reports, around five million people are currently at risk of famine. Similarly, the war between Russia and Ukraine is seriously affecting global food supplies in various ways. These include disruptions in agricultural production and supply chains and trade restrictions; and concerns regarding energy prices and availability are further exacerbating the situation.

Pandemic Disruption in Food Production and Distribution

The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted food production and distribution globally. The measures imposed by governments, such as lockdowns and travel restrictions, have disrupted the food supply chain. The pandemic has also intensified the challenges involved in transporting food across borders. 

Additionally, the pandemic has caused a shortage of labor in the agriculture sector, which has made it challenging to harvest crops. Moreover, the closure of restaurants and schools led to a decline in demand. This resulted in farmers discarding their produce and contributing to food waste.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global workforce, affecting around 81% (2.7 billion workers) through workplace closures, according to the ILO.

High Fertilizer Prices And Trade Restrictions

high fertilizers as part of the world food shortage

High fertilizer prices are also a significant factor contributing to global food shortages. When fertilizer prices increase, farmers may not be able to afford the amount they need. This leads to lower crop yields and food shortages. 

Russia has been the biggest supplier of fertilizers—and fertilizer prices are increasing with the ongoing war, resulting in increased prices on most food items. 

Trade restrictions are another major cause of world food shortages. Many countries have implemented trade restrictions, which can make it more difficult and expensive to import and export food. This can lead to shortages in some regions, where access to certain types of food is limited.

Land Degradation, Population Growth, and Urbanization

Land degradation is another cause of food shortages in the world. Overfarming, deforestation, and unsustainable land use practices have led to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and desertification. As a result, crop yields have decreased, and land available for agriculture has become scarce, leading to food shortages.

Additionally, the world’s population is on a steady rise, and it’s projected to reach over 9 billion people by 2050. This means that the demand for food will skyrocket, and farmers will be under pressure to produce more food. 

However, over the last 50 years, the world has lost more than 30% of its arable land due to erosion, urban sprawl, and climate change. This means that our current agriculture system is not sustainable if we are to feed the world’s population in the coming years.

The Importance of Food Storage Preparedness

As the world faces a high demand for food, it’s inevitable that the prices of food items will also rise and knowing things to stock up on before inflation hits will be important. Unfortunately, this means that staple items such as vegetable oil, wheat, produce, meat, and eggs are likely to be affected by grocery shortages and price increases.

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However, it’s important to stay prepared and proactive in the face of this challenge. With global food shortages being a complex and interconnected issue, it’s crucial to take steps to prepare for potential food scarcity and learn how to prepare for another great depression

One effective way to do so is by storing non-perishable food items for emergencies—for instance, canned goods, freeze-dried fruit, grains, rice, dried beans, and other long-term food storage items

NOTE: Learn how to store rice for the long term with our informative article “How To Store Rice Long Term” to keep your rice fresh and edible for an extended period.

It’s also essential to have a supply of clean water since it’s a basic need for survival. By ensuring you have enough food and water, you can have peace of mind during times of scarcity.

Moreover, growing your own food is another great way to prepare for food shortages. Even if you don’t have a large garden or farm, you can still grow herbs, vegetables, and fruits in pots or small raised beds. Learning basic gardening skills can also make you more self-sufficient and less reliant on commercial food systems. 

Apart from storing food and growing your own, there are other ways to prepare for food scarcity. Read our article, “Preparing for Food Shortages in 2023,” to learn a few ways to prepare and survive any potential food scarcity. 

Taking action now to prepare for potential global food scarcity can ensure that you and your family have access to adequate and nutritious food during times of need.

Related Source: Prepping for Beginners Supplies & Guide

The Bottom Line for Global Food Shortages

As our world faces an increasingly complex and multi-faceted problem of global food shortages, it’s more important than ever to take action and prepare for potential food scarcity. 

Climate change, natural disasters, and other factors such as high fertilizer prices and urbanization all contribute to food shortages in the world. By adopting practices like long-term food storage and gardening, you can become more self-sufficient and better equipped to withstand the challenges of a changing world.