Suggested solutions to tackle food shortages


There is a scarcity of food all around the globe for 3 major causes.

One, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cut back food manufacturing and logistics as a result of farmers, fishermen and truck drivers are nonetheless falling sick from this illness.

Two, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February (2022), as each nations make up 1 / 4 of world wheat manufacturing.

Wheat is used to make bread, flour for noodles and feed for cows.

The invasion additionally elevated the value of pure gasoline, from which ammonia is produced.

Ammonia produces fertiliser, which is utilized in food manufacturing.

And three, there have been many climate-related crop failures this yr alone to date, like droughts in East Africa, Spain and Portugal, floods in Australia, and heatwaves in India, Argentina and Brazil.

This food scarcity could be very regarding for the apparent motive that we want food to survive.

But food shortages have a big well being affect, probably inflicting stunting, malnutrition, weaker immune methods, anaemia (low ranges of pink blood cells, which may end up in fatigue and weak point), nervousness and different well being considerations.

Every authorities around the globe is at the moment frightened about food safety.

However, there are helpful insurance policies that may assist with this concern that governments can implement, which this column will describe.

Just to notice: insurance policies that aren’t useful embrace advising residents to eat much less, or issuing flippant statements like “food shortages are good to help us lose weight”.

Unhelpful insurance policies additionally embrace blaming foreigners for taking over food subsidies, as xenophobia can’t remedy a food scarcity.

On the opposite hand, there’s a vary of useful insurance policies that may be applied with 4 major goals:

  • To enhance food manufacturing
  • To cut back danger of shortages
  • To cut back wastage, and
  • To present emergency help the place essential.

Increase manufacturing

There isn’t any straightforward manner to enhance home food manufacturing within the quick time period, however we’ve got to institute measures to enhance home food manufacturing in the long run.

As it’s, Malaysia imports RM55 billion value of food yearly, and this places us on the mercy of world occasions.

Malaysia is a rustic blessed with considerable sunshine, rainfall and fertile soil, and we must always purpose to be self-sufficient in food.

In this respect, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi now appears prescient when he advocated for higher agricultural practices and funding throughout his tenure as Prime Minister (2003-2009), though his insurance policies suffered from derision from voters and companies for not being fancy, digital or revolutionary.

Increasing native food manufacturing requires a basket of solutions, resembling growing analysis and improvement in agriculture, adopting precision agriculture with higher pesticides and fertiliser administration (and drone know-how), and adopting climate-smart agriculture with higher-yield crops that use much less water.

Modern farming and irrigation strategies are wanted, and applicable investments and loans have to be supplied to farmers to enhance their productiveness.

In this respect, authorities companies like Mardi (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute), Felda (Federal Land Development Authority) and Felcra have to be well-capitalised and allowed to present extra direct help with out pointless federal authorities interventionism.

We can even present direct subsidies or money transfers to farmers, to allow them to buy feed, fertilisers, pesticides and different uncooked supplies (thanks to Twitter person @rajan_2009 for these strategies; in accordance to his bio, Rajan is a “full-time farmer and freelance engineer”).

Another Twitter person @CgtHajar advised kitchen gardens, permaculture, food forests and community-supported agriculture (in accordance to her bio, CgtHajar has multi-disciplinary expertise, together with in agricultural engineering).

To do all this, we should additionally cut back licensing obstacles to encourage extra city farms and different farming, whereas offering some coaching and tax incentives.

Reduce danger

Over a three-to-five-year interval, Malaysia can and will purpose to cut back food imports.Community gardens can be one of the ways to help ease food shortages. — Photos: FilepicCommunity gardens will be one of many methods to assist ease food shortages. — Photos: Filepic

Whatever food we nonetheless import after this era needs to be from various sources and never simply reliant on single-source nations that expose us to disproportionate danger.

In addition, we should implement the One Health method.

In essence, One Health treats public well being as a mix of three well being methods: for people, for animals and for the atmosphere.

Therefore, using pesticides and fertilisers have to be stored to a minimal, and there should not be overuse of antibiotics for cattle and poultry.

Polluting water sources is unhealthy for people, but in addition for animals and food crops.

Therefore, the One Health method wants coordination between the Health Ministry, Veterinary Services Department (the place this columnist’s father served for 30 years) and Environment Department.

And one vital manner to cut back danger is to construct a strategic stockpile of non-perishable objects like rice and wheat.

This was performed throughout World War II by the United States and the United Kingdom, and is at the moment pursued by nations as various as Algeria, China, Egypt, Morocco and the Philippines.

Singapore has a Rice Stockpile Scheme administered by their International Trade and Industry Ministry , and there may be an Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (Asean plus China, Japan and South Korea).

Reduce wastage

It is estimated that 20-30% of all food is wasted if calculated from the farm to the desk.

Vegetables can spoil if lorries don’t arrive quick sufficient, meat can spoil if the fridge will not be chilly sufficient, and buffets will be very wasteful too.

Therefore, there needs to be a robust public training marketing campaign to cut back wastage at house and at eating places, and maybe a brief ban on buffet meals till the scenario improves.

The high quality of our logistics should even be improved.

The technique of bringing food from farm to market to kitchens have to be smoothened out, and all administrative and bodily obstacles have to be eliminated.

This known as “reducing post-harvest loss” (thanks to CgtHajar for this time period).

But in so doing, we should tackle a scourge of the food provide chain: middlemen, cartels and profiteering.

Price ceilings and worth controls will be useful, however provided that accompanied by aggressive efforts to take away pointless middlemen, destroy cartels and get rid of profiteering.

Provide emergency help

Price controls can be a helpful short-term measure, but only if it is accompanied by aggressive efforts to remove unnecessary middlemen, destroy cartels and eliminate profiteering.Price controls could be a useful short-term measure, however solely whether it is accompanied by aggressive efforts to take away pointless middlemen, destroy cartels and get rid of profiteering.

There needs to be concerted political will to present emergency help to those that want it.

Means-testing (the place candidates want to show their eligibility for such help) needs to be stored to a minimal to protect human dignity, cut back paperwork and enhance velocity of serving to these in want.

There are some ways to present emergency help.

Let’s begin with farmers: there will be money transfers to farmers and food producers in order that they will buy fertilisers (costs have doubled for the reason that starting of 2022), livestock feed and different required supplies (thanks to Rajan for this suggestion/request).

For the B40 group, there needs to be a continuing circulate of food help kits of sufficient objects to present satisfactory diet.

At this second, food help kits are preferable to money transfers to the B40 group as a result of there’s a scarcity of food.

With money transfers, B40 recipients will nonetheless compete within the costly market for scarce objects, and we are able to’t present them with sufficient cash.

However, as soon as the scenario improves, we must always change to extra cash transfers and fewer food help kits to present alternative, dignity and company to the recipients.

This can also be as a result of money is extra simply tracked (particularly into ewallets) and since procuring food objects has a better alternative for corruption than offering money.

There needs to be fixed authorities help for food kitchens and group kitchens like Kechara Soup Kitchen and Pertiwi Soup Kitchen, as a result of there may be merely no manner for the federal government to know all the universe of individuals needing assist.

And lastly, there needs to be lively surveillance and monitoring of malnutrition in youngsters and the B40 group, with medical and diet interventions supplied as essential.

Worsening scenario

In final month’s column, we mentioned food insurance policies in three domains: food safety, food security and food labelling.

This month (July 2022), the food scenario has worsened.

It will not be sufficient to create one more activity drive whose major instrument is “price ceilings for important items”.

We want a multi-prong method to remedy a multi-factorial drawback, and never blame foreigners or ask residents to eat much less.

Dr Khor Swee Kheng is a doctor specialising in well being insurance policies and international well being. He tweets as @DrKhorSK. The views expressed listed here are fully his personal. For extra info, electronic mail [email protected] The info supplied is for academic and communication functions solely. The Star doesn’t give any guarantee on accuracy, completeness, performance, usefulness or different assurances as to the content material showing on this column. The Star disclaims all accountability for any losses, injury to property or private harm suffered instantly or not directly from reliance on such info.

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