Farming and food supply library

What’s the issue? One way that mankind has kept pace with the growing demand for food is to bring more farmland in to production. However, almost all of the world’s naturally fertile land is now in use. The scope to expand this further is very limited. New farmland is being created by clearing forests but this of course is a major contributor to atmospheric CO 2 and so is not a sensible o...
What’s the issue? Affordability is a key component of food security. Whenever safe and nutritious food is not available at a price affordable to all, then the welfare of some people is jeopardised. Throughout modern history, the tendency has been for food affordability to improve, relative to income, but this is not a guaranteed trend. Threats to affordability may either be persistent or t...
What’s the issue? Food waste is an obvious barrier to food security. The higher the level of waste, the harder it becomes to match supply with demand. Relatively low prices for food have allowed many Western societies to develop wasteful habits and yet still comfortably afford to eat. Arguably, this “crowds out” lower income consumers, leaving less food to go around. Certainly, if eatin...
What’s the issue? Fertilisers add nutrients to soil, allowing higher yields and preventing soil exhaustion. According to the Fertilizer Institute, around half of world food production can be attributed to the use of fertilisers. As global food demand increases therefore, so will the demand for fertilisers. The two most critical elements are nitrogen and phosphorus. Potassium is also ess...
What’s the issue? Fish constitutes an important source of nutrition for much of the world’s population. Fish and fishery products are among the most traded food commodities worldwide. The sector provides livelihoods for a big share of the world’s population. Fishing is unusual in modern food production because it is a form of hunting. Wild fish stocks are not owned by any particular party ...
What’s the issue? Disease in farm animals, such as BSE, foot and mouth, swine fever, bird flu and TB has regularly hit the news headlines. Major outbreaks cause great animal suffering, disruption to food chains and economic damage. Viruses constantly evolve and new strains appear regularly. Constant vigilance and decisive action are essential. A distinction can be drawn between systemic...
What’s the issue? Although large scale problems are rarely resolved entirely through a “techno-fix”, technology is very often an important component. Various scientific breakthroughs have the potential to contribute towards food security but if these take a long time to be implemented then the opportunity could be missed and this could be a source of frustration and contention. Many tec...
What’s the issue? Most countries, even those that are more than self-sufficient in food, rely on trade for some components of the diet. The UK sources about one-third of all agricultural goods from overseas and even for items that can be produced domestically, the proportion is about one-quarter 1 . Some items (eg: fruit) are sourced almost entirely from overseas and overall food self-suff...
What’s the issue? In this context, “speculation” refers mainly to the involvement of outside (non-food-business) interests in the trading of food commodities, especially through the use of future contracts. These are similar to forward-purchase contracts except that a future is a financial asset that can only be traded on an exchange whereas a forward contract is a private arrangement betw...
What’s the issue? The banking system underpins all commercial activity by creating, storing and transferring money. Any failure in the system therefore can cause the destruction of wealth and erosion of confidence. A particularly severe collapse, although unlikely, could undermine the trading system that underpins the food chain. Possible shocks that might precipitate a problem in the b...