Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Value of International Food Security

Food security matters.  Maslow's hierarchy of needs puts the human requirement for food right on the bottom as a fundamental prerequisite for pursuing everything else.  Spiraling prices for food staples were one major reason the Arab Spring spread so quickly among disaffected populations that had dissimilar ethnographies.

CGIAR and IFPRI are creating the theoretical framework for policy innovation in food security.  The USDA's Economic Research Service has long published a Food Security Assessment with years of data to support policy.  This year's First International Conference on Global Food Security shouldn't be so quick to style its work as unprecedented, if only they'd look up the history of the World Food Summit.  The UN's World Food Programme and USAID's Bureau of Food Security often do the heavy lifting of underwriting relief and investment in emerging nations that lack food security.  The G-20's Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) is putting the developed world's money to work in food aid.  There's a lot of money in play creating demand for innovative food solutions.

Intrepid entrepreneurs are trying to monetize food security.  The International Food Security Fund is an effort to create private sector demand for food security solutions.  I'm disappointed that its documentation is only viewable behind a login portal.  The Global Food Exchange has publicly available information on its relief vault product.  I understand the demand for commodities as relief goods but I don't understand the purpose of creating an exchange to support the pricing of prepackaged modules.  The modules themselves are good ways to organize relief shipments but relief agencies may balk at relying upon a single source for relief supplies.  The cost of physical storage and an illiquid exchange add a markup to the price relief agencies must pay.

Big Data and drones may do more for food security than any high-minded relief effort if they allow small farmers to optimize production.  Food security and water security are inseparable.  The market for food and water is as large as the world's population.  Third Eye OSINT will have more to say about the potential for instability from food and water scarcity.