FOOD prices are going up globally, and the timing couldn’t be worse. Prices of staples such as wheat, sunflower seeds, soy beans and sugar have increased to a new six-year high in January this year.
In the United States, Consumer Price Index data for January 2021 found that the cost of food eaten at home rose 3.7% from a year ago – more than double the 1.4% year-over-year increase in the prices of all goods included in the country’s CPI, according to news reports.
Meanwhile, a survey found out that the prices of food in Malaysia have increased by 6.35% compared to last year.
Emerging markets are feeling the pain of a blistering surge in costs of raw materials, as prices of commodities from oil to copper and grains are driven higher by expectations of a post-pandemic economic recovery as well as ultra-loose monetary policies.
Large-scale food crises that exceed national response capacities and necessitate humanitarian intervention from outside sources often arise in developing countries with limited financial and technical resources.
The lack of credible information on causes of food insecurity, inadequate infrastructure and weak government agencies, exacerbated by lack of consistent policies and strategies to resolve the problems, all hinder decision-making and strategic planning.
Investing in a food security information system is essential to improve decision-making and increase national emergency preparedness and response capacity in times of crises.
Setting the system up involves a thorough understanding of the various risk factors that affect food security, which must be defined, evaluated and tracked.
It is crucial to recognise and understand the numerous food security hazards and vulnerabilities at the sub-national level and identify information gaps and national capacities.
The temporal and spatial distribution of historical, present and anticipated hazards as well as their severity, frequency and length must also be determined to ascertain which can be accurately predicted.
Simply put, the key elements for an effective food security information system are:1. Identifying the hazards (anything that may cause harm);
2. Deciding who may be harmed, and how;
3. Assessing the risks and taking action;
4. Making a record of the findings; and
5. Reviewing the risk assessment.
A robust food security risk analysis and monitoring system should also provide data that would make it possible to combine the potential effects of different natural disasters, such as floods, droughts and landslides, with socioeconomic and vulnerability factors.
Food insecurity endangers lives and livelihoods, disrupts long-term growth, and puts populations at risk of future disasters.
Development partners and the humanitarian community must therefore work together to provide the government with coordinated support for the implementation of effective strategies to meet the immediate food needs of the population while still maintaining long-term sustainable growth.
OSWALD TIMOTHY EDWARD , Faculty of Business and Management ,UiTM Johor