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Explain in What Ways, if any, International Trade Can Be Both Cause and Cure for Food Shortages in a World of Plenty.

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Introduction

Explain in What Ways, if any, International Trade Can Be Both Cause and Cure for Food Shortages in a World of Plenty. "Despite the fact that globally, and even regionally, adequate food is produced, several hundred million people are suffering from chronic undernutrition, i.e. from hunger."1 Currently the world as a whole produces enough food to feed its entire population comfortably, and predictions of population growth matched up against agriculture's ability to meet these demands is favourable. Despite this there are millions of people across the world, which daily, face the very real threat of starvation, and millions more besides in a constant state of under nourishment. I aim to show that the cause of these problems lies within the systems under which world trade is directed - in both food produce and all other commodities. Firstly it is necessary to determine who the starving are and to identify the direct problems they face attaining a sufficient level of food to sustain a healthy lifestyle, before going on to examining the wider problems inflicted by the organisation of world trade, as it stands. In Poverty and Famines, published in 1981, Amartya Sen tackled the issue of why so many people are left starving, and came up with an answer based upon what he called the entitlement approach. He concluded that hunger was caused not by a lack of food availability, but rather that: "A person's ability to command food - indeed, to command any commodity he wishes to acquire or retain - depends on the entitlement relations that govern possession and use in that society. ...read more.

Middle

This led to the government holding massive surpluses of grain. For a long time the U.S. had exported vast amounts of wheat, grown on huge Midwestern farms, over to Europe; and after the war Europe, under the encouragement of a U.S. wishing to see Europe rebuilt, sought to end its dependence on American wheat by producing its own again. A new market for the surplus wheat needed to be found. The solution was food aid: subsidised American wheat, making it cheaper for Third World countries to rely on American imports, rather than domestically grown produce. "Food aid was the combined solution to American surpluses and to further integrating Third World agrarian societies into the capitalist sphere of the world economy"4 This policy was attractive to Third World regimes desperate to undergo industrialisation. Food aid enabled, and forced, because they couldn't now compete, a great number of people previously engaged in agricultural work to move to the cities and aid industrialisation. These governments encouraged cheap food policies, and this coupled with surplus labour kept wages low. The lasting legacy of food aid is poor countries still dependent on imported food because of the underdevelopment their agriculture suffered. The Third World still has the problem that although it must import its food, as individual countries in a global market they are small time players. "The countries which harbour the hungry play only a modest role in international food trade, because they lack the financial means to import large amounts of food ... ...read more.

Conclusion

It aims to bring about change with consumer choice, encouraging shoppers to buy commodities with a guarantee that the Third World producer has been given a fair price. This so far has had little impact: the higher prices means it only really appeals to those who are well off; Whereas, other consumer driven campaigns that have succeeded, such as dolphin friendly tuna, made no real difference to the price. But Fair Trades salient point, essentially, paying the real value for the goods received, could make a very real difference if it became normal practice, and to these ends should be taken up internationally. The market system as a path towards solving the world food problem can be seen to have failed, and by it's nature will continue to do so. It is a myth that poverty, hence hunger, can be eradicated through free market economics and capitalist ideals, as they require an exploited class of people to function effectively. Free markets are as organised as controlled markets; those with the power and money to dictate international prices and extract crippling debt repayments from countries (people), used systematically as a source of cheap labour and raw materials, can continue to do so for as long as they wish; providing of course they are capable of easing their consciences, which is why we have to have comic relief, I suppose. ...read more.

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