Revisiting the Global Food Crisis: Magnitude, Causes, Impact and Policy Options

Abstract: The brief period that we have seen of the 21st century has been marked by a drastic intensification of the global food crisis. The phenomenal surge in fuel and food prices followed by the ongoing economic crisis have worked in tandem to increasingly deprive the poor across the world, particularly in the Global South, from their fundamental right to food. The fast expanding incidence of hunger and nutritional deprivation amongst the developing and less-developed countries has emerged as a major concern for academics, multilateral institutions and policymakers, besides the larger society. The magnitude of the food crisis demands urgent action on the part of governments, multilateral agencies and all those who cherish the vision of a hunger-free world. A correct identification of the causes of the food crisis and rising hunger is, therefore, crucial for the adaptation of policies and strategies in this battle against hunger and food-deprivation. In this backdrop, this paper seeks to review the various strains of the discourse that has emerged on this issue. The volatility of food prices in the short run has been an important factor behind the vulnerability of the vast mass of net food buyers across the Third World nations. While the impact of the skyrocketing of oil and grain prices, in the recent past, on the access to food in these countries needs to be traced out, the global financial crisis and the associated loss of livelihood and employment is also crucially linked to the question of food security. Looking at the issue from the lens of a longer historical time-frame, one is also drawn towards a review of the trade policies of developing countries and the export-oriented agricultural production that has gained prominence in large parts of the Global South over the last few decades. In this regard, the structural change in many developing country food stocks policy and public distribution mechanisms is one policy aspect that also assumes importance from the perspective of food security