Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Food for Thought

Food for Thought
24 Jun
2017
Almost two billion people around the world depend on imported produce to combat local scarcity

In Egypt, bread is so much a staple that its Arabic name aish also means ‘life’. Before the uprising of 2011, bread prices soared. Why? Because the nation imports most of its wheat, and that year wheat exporters suffered widespread crop failures. It acts as a powerful example of how food dependency can affect a country.

Egypt is not alone. Many countries look abroad to compensate for low food production at home. Research by the University of Aalto in Finland has found that 1.4 billion people have become dependent on food imports, while an additional 460 million live in regions where increased imports do not make up for a lack of local production, overwhelmingly in developing countries.

Dr Joseph Guillaume, postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the study, says:

‘It seems obvious to look elsewhere when local production is not sufficient, and our analysis clearly shows that is what happens. Perhaps it’s the right choice, but it should not be taken for granted.’

The research found that water is the key limiting resource. However, even in less wealthy countries, money that could be spent on increasing production and improving irrigation is often spent on imports. In other words, countries spend money on foreign food before exploring other options.

In any case, the populations of many regions, such as Nepal and Ethiopia, have exceeded the amount of food they could produce. For that reason, other measures must be taken to maintain food security. ‘It would also be important to reduce food waste and meat consumption,’ says Miina Porkka, researcher of water and food security and co-author of the study. ‘Since one quarter of all the food produced in the world is wasted, reducing this would be really significant on a global level.’

This was published in the June 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.