How long have we got until the food runs out? Globally, about 165 days on average, longer for those whose governments stockpile. But this is highly variable depending on the national circumstance.
As economies become more stable and used to having steady supplies, the desire to spend taxpayer money on ensuring the domestic food inventory wanes.
Economists suggest it costs between 0.5 to two percent of GDP to publicly hold a short-term stockpile of food in reserve. India claims to have enough to buffer crop shortfalls or price spikes for up to three years, hanging on to about one third of its annual production at all times.
It’s an aggravation for the World Trade Organization, because it creates market distortion in the WTO supply and demand worldview, especially if non-tariff trade barriers are thrown up to help keep domestic market prices higher than they might otherwise be.
Supply resilience and production sustainability walk hand in hand. Now, carryout stocks of major grains are high. Oilseeds, as a percentage of production, are flat, but growing along with total tonnage.
This is likely a good thing, unless you are a farmer selling wheat or corn. And those over-supplied stocks also tend to make other crops cheaper as growers look for alternatives for their acreages.
The risk of shortages rises along with weather variability, increased demand, rising populations and lower food-security inventories. This creates a ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ scenario about global shortfalls.
The use of big-data from precision agriculture is a tool to help ensure maximum productivity.
If governments have access to that information, hence the expansion of satellite crop monitoring by federal organizations, they can also help predict weather and pest-induced crop failures. And it can aid in carbon-efficiency and cropping-lifecycle analysis research, theoretically, someday reducing weather volatility.
By combining GIS-aided production data with stocks information, motivated governments could work to ensure global supply meets demand through farm-support policies that reduce the reliance on farmer equity to buffer food commodity swings.
Maybe it’s a good thing governments aren’t ‘motivated.’ It enables the price spikes that many growers rely on to keep coming.