Ignoring the comments of U.S President Bush on food crisis and the rebuffs he received from the Indian politicians, including the latest from Mr.Sidhu, an MP,a former cricketor turned politician, it is also our duty to check out what the real economists say about the present international food crisis that are creating political tensions from North Africa to South East Asia and how the world is scrambling for solutions.
Last week, wealthy countries pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in crops, seeds, vouchers and funds for ‘food security’.That may help to stave of the current emergency, but the crisis needs long term solutions.
An Economist from Columbia University, Mr. Jeffrey Sachs in his new book called Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet has elaborately explained the reasons for the present food crisis and the solutions for averting the crisis.
According to him, the fundamental reason for soaring food prices is that growing global demand is outstripping global supply. The tight supply is due: 1) chronically low farm productivity in many regions, notably sub-Saharan Africa. 2) The increasing diversion of US and European food output into bio-fuels.3) the increasing frequency and vulnerability to climate shocks and 4) the increasing squeeze on water availability and new arable land for expanded crop production. Each of these should be addressed.
Jeffrey Sachs also suggest the following remedies :
1) African farmers lack financing to buy critical inputs such as fertilizers and high yield seeds.The donor countries would do Africa and the world a load of good by focusing less on shipping expensive food aid from Europe and the US and focusing much more on helping African farmers to gain access to the inputs they need for higher productivity. A good model is Malawi’s voucher programme for small holder farmers which gives impoverished farmers in Malawi the access to a modest amount of fertilizer and improved seeds per household, at an affordable price.
2) The rich countries should stop diverting their food crops and their food-growing land (such as the shift in Europe from wheat and maize to rapeseed) for bio-fuel production.
3) Using food for bio-fuels is actually bad for the environment (through the high-energy inputs used to grow the crops and to convert them to bio-fuels) and it is disastrous for global food balances.
4) To address the increase climate shocks, water scarcity and land scarcity should be much stepped up research and investment to ‘climate proof’ the food system and further raise yeilds