HKDSE Geography/M5/World Distribution of Famines

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Uneven Food Production[edit]

The world production of cereals exceeds the world consumption of cereals. As cereals are staple foods, this indicates clearly that the world food supply is sufficient to meet the demands of the world population.

World food production is sufficient!

According to the UNFAO, tn 2013-14, the world production is around 2500 million tonnes, but the consumption is around 2400 million. (Source)

However, the world food supply is uneven. Some more developed countries have high agricultural production and export excess food supply to other countries at the world market price. Others, such as Japan, have low agricultural production and import food from other countries. These countries have food surpluses and a low risk of famines. Some less developed countries do not produce enough food to meet the demand, and do not have enough money to import food. They have food shortage and a high risk of famines.

Countries with low risk of food shortages are more developed countries, including Western Europe, North America, Australia and Japan. Countries with moderate risk include the Commonwealth of Independent States (i.e. former USSR), China, many countries in Southeast Asia and South America, plus a few African countries. Countries with a high risk of food shortages include Sub-Saharan Africa, certain Asian countries (such as North Korea, Afghanistan, and South Asian countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) and a handful of countries in Latin America, such as Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Remember a few examples from each category.

Characteristics of Countries with High Risk of Famine[edit]

Here is a table showing the differences between high- and low-risk countries:

Countries with high risk of food shortage Countries with low risk of food shortage
Economy
Lower income Higher income
Heavy reliance on primary production, particularly agriculture High level of industrialisation, relying on secondary and tertiary industries
Society
Shorter life expectancy Longer life expectancy
Higher birth rate and natural population growth Lower birth rate and natural population growth
Low level of education and low-skilled labour High level of education and high-skilled labour
Higher proportion of young people Higher proportion of old people
Politics
Often unstable Stable
Serious corruption, bribery, nepotism, embezzlement of public funds, etc. Corruption, bribery, et al. are less serious

Recent trends[edit]

  • The proportion of the world population in countries with low average food production has been declining. In less developed coutnries, the average food energy consumption has been increasing. The world average food consumed is expected to rise to 3050 kcal in 2030. (Source)
  • Diets have been shifting from grain-based diets to diets with more meat and dairy products in less developed countries, while the amount of beef and other fatty products have been on the decline in more developed countries because of health concerns.
  • In the past, LDCs usually had a net surplus in agricultural trade, but by the late 1990s, the imports have exceeded the exports. As the agricultural trade balance (exports - imports) continues to decrease, these countries are more likely to face famines because of their heavy reliance on imports.