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Mapped: How the Energy Crisis Impacts Global Food Insecurity

3 Mins read

Mapped: How the Energy Crisis Impacts Global Food Insecurity

Mapped: How the Energy Crisis Impacts Global Food Insecurity

Food insecurity occurs when an individual does not have access to the adequate quantity or quality of food they require to meet their biological needs.

A disruption in supply chains, rising input costs, and inadequate weather can all have a direct impact on global food security, all of which have been in play in recent years.

Using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, let’s do a deep dive into food insecurity around the world and discuss how rising energy costs can drive up food prices, exacerbating food insecurity.

The State of Global Food Insecurity

The latest data from the FAO marks 29.3% of the entire world population to be moderately or severely food insecure, with 40% of this population experiencing severe food insecurity. Based on FAO definitions, here is what that means:

  • A moderately food insecure person experiences uncertainty about their ability to obtain food, unwillingly compromising the quantity and/or the quality of food they consume
  • A severely food insecure person lacks access to food, enduring prolonged periods of time without eating

The African continent bears most of the burden when it comes to global food insecurity, with 14 out of the top 15 most food-insecure countries being in this region. The data also paints a relatively grim picture for Middle Eastern and South American countries, while North America and Western Europe have moderate or severe food insecurity marked below 10%.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the prevalence of African food insecurity to just one cause. Climate change, conflict in Africa, government debt, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have all contributed in different ways to worsening food security conditions in this region.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict, for instance, led to European aid for African countries to drop substantially, while grain exports from both Ukraine and Russia fell as ports in the Black Sea experienced disruptions. The war has also caused a disruption in fertilizer supplies, with Russia being the top exporter of fertilizer, along with a substantial rise in farming input costs as energy prices soared in 2022.

How Energy Prices Trickle Down to Food Prices

Food prices have risen substantially in the last year due to surging energy prices and supply chain disruptions. The FAO food price index, which measures the change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, saw a 14.3% increase between 2021 and 2022.

As seen above, individual commodity indices followed this trend, with dairy and cereal prices bearing the brunt.

Energy costs trickle down to food prices in a variety of ways. The simple correlation between historic oil and corn prices, seen below, can paint a telling picture.

What’s interesting is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the effects of the 2022 energy cost crisis may not have even fully materialized yet.

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According to their research, a 1% increase in fertilizer prices can boost food commodity prices by 0.45% within four quarters. With natural gas, a major input for nitrogen-based fertilizer, being 150% more expensive in 2022 than in 2021, this may be a cause for concern in the upcoming months.

Relatedly, a rise in fertilizer costs is also connected to harvest levels in upcoming seasons. Reduced use of fertilizer as a result of high costs can lead to diminished crop yields, and the IMF predicts that a 1% drop in global harvests bumps food commodity prices by 8.5%, potentially indicating that the worst of it for food prices—and for global food security—is still yet to come.

Looking Ahead to 2023

Food security is a fundamental aspect of human existence and plays an important role in the steady economic growth and prosperity of nations. While we may be tempted to believe that we’re heading in the right direction on a global scale, the FAO paints a different picture, specifically for Africa.

2030 predictions for global undernourishment forecast an 11.5% increase in hunger in Africa, while world hunger at large is predicted to decrease. With global inflation looming high and food prices still under the influence of 2022 events, addressing hunger in Africa is as crucial as ever to improve the overall well-being and development of the continent.

Source: Visualcapitalist

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