With food-producing resources in so much of the world stretched to the limit, there's simply not enough food to go around. Unfortunately, some people will just have to go hungry. We must put all our efforts into boosting agricultural production in order to minimize hunger.
The world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being on the planet with 3,500calories a day.' That's enough to make most people fat! And this estimate does not even count many other commonly eaten foods-vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. In fact, if all foods are considered together, enough is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. That includes two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound offruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs.
Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today. Increases in food production during the past 35 years have outstripped the world's unprecedented population growth by about 16 percent. Indeed, mountains of unsold grain on world markets have pushed prices strongly downward over the past three anda half decades. Grain prices rose briefly during the early 1990s, as bad weather coincided with policies geared toward reducing overproduction, but still remained well below the highs observed in the early sixties and mid-seventies.
All well and good for the global picture, you might be thinking, but doesn't such a broad stroke tell us little? Aren't most of the world's hungry living incountries with food shortages - countries in Latin America, in Asia, and especially in Africa?
Hunger in the face of ample food is all the more shocking in the Third World. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, gains in food production since 1950 have kept ahead of population growth in every region except Africa. The American Association for theAdvancement of Science (AAAS) found in a 1997 study that 78% of all malnourished children under five in the developing world live in countries with food surpluses.Thus, even most "hungry countries have enough food for all their people right now. This finding turns out to be true using official statistics even though experts warn us that newly modernizing societies invariably underestimate farmproduction-just as a century ago at least a third of the U.S. wheat crop went uncounted. Moreover, many nations can't realize their full food production potential because of the gross inefficiencies caused by inequitable ownership of resources.
Finally, many of the countries in which hunger is rampant export much more in agricultural goods than they import. Northern countries are the main food importers,their purchases representing 71.2 percent of the total value of food items imported in the world in 1992. Imports by the 30 lowest-income countries, on the other hand, accounted for only 5.2 percent of all international commerce in food and farm commodities.
Looking more closely at some of the world's hunger-ravaged countries and regions confirms that scarcity is clearly not the causeof hunger.
India ranks near the top among Third World agricultural exporters. While at least 200 million Indians go hungry," in 1995 India exported $625 million worth of wheat and flour, and $1.3 billion worth of rice (5 million metric tons), the two staples of the Indian diet.
Beginning with its famine of the early 1970s, Bangladesh came to symbolize the frightening consequences ofpeople overrunning food resources. Yet Bangladesh's official yearly rice output alone-which some experts say is seriously under-reported - could provide each person with about a pound of grain per day, or 2,000 calories.'4 Adding to that small amounts of vegetables, fruits, and legumes could prevent hunger for everyone. Yet the poorest third of the people in Bangladesh eat at most only 1,500 calories...