There are staggering numbers of people all over the world who experience hunger. Many people believe that hunger is caused by the insufficient supply of food. More importantly, it is assumed that due to the large population of the world, an inadequate amount of food is produced. However, this is a completely false assumption for as Robbins said, “There is enough food in the world to feed 120 percent of the world’s population on a vegetarian diet. ” (Robbins, p. 178) This fact then brings about the question, if there is enough food, then why do so many people go hungry?
The answer lies in the economics of food production. Food is now a capitalist commodity. Therefore, the production of food must be seen as the production of any other market commodity. Food production is not driven by global need, it is driven by market demand. As Robbins mentioned, “Food production is not determined necessarily by the global need for food; it is determined by the market for food. ” (Robbins, p. 186) Looking at food production from this perspective will reveal the factors that affect the production of food.
The market for food refers to the number of people that have the means to buy and pay for food. However, since a large segment of the population lives in poverty, there are very few people who can afford food. Since it is demand that determines the amount of food to be produced, the lower demand translates to lesser food production. Producers do not want to produce at a maximum level because it will mean an over-production. This will result to lower prices and ultimately lower productivity.
Another factor that affects food production is the fact that farmers tend to use land to produce non food crops such as tobacco and corn as well as for crops that are marginally nutritious. (Robbins, p 186) The choice of what crops to plant relies on what the market demands. For instance, farmers tend to prioritize planting coffee for there is a large global demand for this. Coffee produced in agricultural countries in Africa is not necessarily for local consumption; it is produced because the more affluent nations demand it.
Farmers consider the profitability of producing certain crops and coffee production is considered to be more profitable than vegetable production. Another example is soy bean. Soy bean is not as nutritious as vegetables. However, since there is a market for this crop in the more developed countries, farmers tend to plant this rather than vegetables. A more concrete and evident example of how market demand drives food production is the production of beef. Robbins discussed why Mexican farmers tend to concentrate on beef production.
“People in Mexico go hungry because land is devoted to the production of beef, which few Mexicans can afford, but which brings high prices in the United States. ” (Robbins, p. 186) The rationale behind this is that food production is driven by the demands of the markets that have the money to buy food. There is no question that there is enough food to feed the world. Hunger cannot be attributed to the inadequate amount of food. Hunger is a result of an economic problem. Lack of food on the plate is a result of the lack of money to buy food. Food production is no longer determined by the need for it by everyone.
It is driven by what people who have the means to buy food demand and want. Food has become a commodity rather than a necessity. The solution of the problem of hunger lies not in production but in distribution. As Robbins (p. 187) said, “Rather than seeing hunger or famine as a failure of production, we can focus on a failure of distribution… The goal is simply to establish, reestablish, or protect entitlements, the legitimate claim to food. ” Reference: Robbins, R. (2007). Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. pp 177-187.
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