Causes of food shortage in developing countries
This article explores the most common causes of food shortage in developing countries. Food shortage refers to the lack of food in a large geographical area. Conversely, food availability, also known as food security, is the state of having secure access to sufficient food for a given period.
In developed countries, it is relatively easy for people to acquire and store enough food due to high levels of income, improved transportation system, and agricultural technologies. However, in developing countries and some other parts of the world where there are low economic growth, low incomes, and poor infrastructure, it can be challenging for people to obtain necessary amounts of food on a regular basis.
What is food shortage?
According to UNU (n.d.) food shortage occurs when food supplies within a bounded region do not provide the energy and nutrients needed by that region’s population. The number of undernourished people in the world has been increasing at an alarming rate for a long time. This clearly indicates that there are many factors underlying the increase in undernourishment which are beyond the control or knowledge of individual countries.
Most countries in the world today face shortages in some specific foods as they cannot be produced locally or imported from elsewhere. However, in some developing countries, food shortage may occur on multiple items of food.
List of the causes of food shortage in developing countries
When the amount of food available is less than the demand, it leads to a food shortage. One of the main reasons behind increasing food shortage is rapid population growth. With a rapid increase in population, more food is required to meet the demand. When food is not available in sufficient quantities, people go hungry and suffer from malnutrition.
The global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 (UN, 2022). This rapid growth will put massive stress on the food supplies as demand is expected to be over 60% compared to that today.
Climate change is causing a shift in the distribution of rainfall and intensity of rainfall. This change in the weather pattern is affecting many major agricultural regions of the world and increasing the demand for water. Experts believe that in the near future, water unavailability will become another major cause of food shortage. Rapid urbanisation and growing demand for meat products are also expected to lead to food shortages as water availability will be affected.
When food production is less than the demand in the market, a food shortage occurs. Sometimes, this imbalance can be resolved by importing food from other countries or producing more food domestically. However, importing food from other countries has its own challenges. Likewise, optimal import locations may also face food shortages for may reasons.
War forces farmers to flee their land or to join the fight. Sometimes, enemies might use food as a weapon by cutting off food supplies in order to gain ground. Crops can also be devastated during wars (BBC, 2022). Current wars and other political challenges in many countries are one of the major of causes food shortage in developing countries and beyond.
Effects of food shortage
When the food supply is less than the demand, the price of food goes up. This rise in price has adverse consequences for poor countries as they are more vulnerable to increasing food prices (BBC, 2022). Many people will be unable to buy food and may have to end up in dire starvation, and malnutrition.
One of the major effects of food shortage is social unrest. People need to eat, and therefore, when food supplies are low, they may have to fight for their survival. Riots in Algeria several years back, and protests in Sri Lanka in 2022 were caused by food shortages and high prices of products.
Many small food companies may go out of the market because of food shortage. If they do not have anything to sell, then, there is no business for them. On the other hand, only some, and most of the time, big companies may benefit from food shortages by increasing prices and driving out small competitors.
Steps to alleviate food shortage
Farmers should increase the supply of food crops by introducing improved cultivation methods and varieties. They should also ensure the effective storage of grains.
Governments should improve the infrastructure and provide better connectivity to facilitate transportation of food. Likewise, they need to ensure that there are no political uncertainties that may disrupt the food supply chain.
Creating awareness among the people about the importance of food security and how to mitigate food shortages is also important. This requires efforts from organisations, government, and the public.
People need to be thoughtful about the consequence of food waste and how it may create problems for less fortunate people. Those who can afford should not be buying more than what they need and then wasting it.
Summary of the causes of food shortage in developing countries
Food shortage is a global problem, though it is most prevalent in developing countries. The most common causes of food shortage in developing countries are population growth, rapid urbanisation, climate change, and demand-supply imbalance in the food chain. Steps identified above and others must be taken to deal with the challenges of food shortage.
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Last update: 15 September 2022
BBC (2022) Food security – a global concern, available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zsdhbk7/revision/3 (accessed 12 September 2022)
UNU (n.d.) Food shortage, available at: https://archive.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu22we/uu22we09.htm (accessed 13 September 2022)
UN (2022) Population, available at: https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/population# (accessed 12 September 2022)
Author: M Rahman
M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.