The global food industry

The world has changed and the way food demands are met is complex. As demand increases nations are having to become more adept at managing food resources.

The global demand for food

Food is one example of how globalisation has influenced society. The food-supply chain is complex and involves more countries than ever before. For example, rice grown in Thailand may be packaged in India and sold in a supermarket in the UK.

There is also a growing issue of food shortages in some countries. The reasons for this are:

  • Bigger population numbers – the global population increases by 75 million people each year.
  • More income – many people in countries such as Brazil and China are becoming richer. As income increases people demand more meat and dairy produce. The animals eat the grain that could have been sold on the market. It takes five times as much grain to produce one kilo of meat.
  • More extreme weather – droughts and extreme rainfall ruin crops so less can be sold on the global food market.

Food consumption

At a global scale, food consumption is very uneven. Some MEDCs have many problems relating to the over consumption of food. These include heart disease and obesity.

In LEDCs undernutrition is a problem. Seventy-six per cent of the population in The Democratic Republic of Congo are undernourished.

Map of world undernourished populations

Map of world undernourished populations

Theories of resource consumption

Thomas Malthus: doom and gloom…

In the 18th century Malthus wrote that the rate of population growth was faster than the rate that food supplies could grow. In time, there would not be enough resources for everyone. Some people would therefore starve and the population would reduce again. More people may be killed from wars over trying to get hold of resources – he called these a positive check.

People might try to prevent this from happening by having smaller families. He called this a preventative check.

Esther Boserup: things are always greener on the other side…

Genetic modification of tomatoes

Genetic modification of tomatoes makes them bigger than natural

In 1965 Boserup wrote “necessity is the mother of invention”. That means, if you need it, someone will invent it. So if more food was needed she wrote that people would invent ways of increasing food supply – crops thsat fight diseases or survive with less water are examples of this.

Case study: commercial food production

Old Polders, North West Netherlands

Farmland in Polder landscape, Friesland, Holland

Intensive use of land for crop growing in Holland

The Netherlands is a small but densely populated country. It has a population densityof over 400 people per km2 (one of highest in Europe). Land is in short supply so some has been reclaimed from the sea.

The Old Polders is large flat area drained by canals. It is close to large cities, such as Amsterdam. The area is used for dairy farming, producing cheeses like Gouda and Edam. It also produces butter. Many of the cattle are fed on automated systems.

The Netherlands and its major cities

The location of the Old Polders in the Netherlands

The area between Haarlem, The Hague and Rotterdam is used intensively. Glasshouses are found here, which grow crops like lettuces and cucumbers. The farmers use many fertilisers to help increase production. Many glasshouses have computerised controls.

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