food shortages in 2022 are leading to emptier shelves

What Will Cause Food Shortages in 2022 and Beyond?

June 9, 2022 - Emily Newton

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You’ve undoubtedly heard a lot about food shortages in 2020. Perhaps you’ve even experienced their impacts already. But, what’s causing the food shortages in 2022 and the overall greater difficulty in getting consumables that were once widely available. Here’s a closer look. 

COVID-19 

Although the COVID-19 crisis has lessened in many parts of the world, it’s still causing problems in others. China is still embracing a zero-COVID policy. That means many of its citizens are still enduring lockdowns. Those disruptions have strained food supplies. 

Government officials in the Jilin province said about one-third of farmers did not have enough fertilizer to do their April planting. The persistent lockdowns in China have caused challenges in getting raw materials, too. Additionally, trucks carrying supplies are sometimes barred from entering areas under lockdowns. 

Japanese restaurants in Australia are facing a sushi shortage, too. COVID-19 labor issues and transportation troubles have made it more difficult to source the food. Overseas suppliers also caused a 46% rise in export costs by sourcing the fish from Tasmania. 

The United States has not been immune to food shortages during 2022. A recent academic study assessed how the pandemic affected`people’s willingness to work in the meatpacking sector. It found that the industry had a labor shortage before the pandemic. However, COVID-19 exacerbated it, especially as workers became ill during outbreaks. These effects negatively impacted the kinds of meat available and the overall supply. 

Many people can recall the early days of the pandemic when certain in-demand items were hard or impossible to find. That was partially due to some consumers hoarding them.  However, the highly contagious omicron variant had similar effects for a different reason. There were so many people out sick that their absences had ripple effects across the food supply chain. At Southeastern grocery chain Piggly Wiggly, one-third of the distribution center staff were unable to work. 

Climate Change and Extreme Weather 

Scientists warn that climate change and weather extremes will affect vital things like crop production. Some such issues have already caused concerns about a food shortage in 2022. In Afghanistan, many farmers struggle to have fruitful harvests due to persistent droughts. Regardless of what the weather does, topsoil health affects crop yields, too. Estimates suggest healthy topsoil helps cultivate 95% of the food humans eat. 

Experts also say extreme heat has a significantly detrimental effect on crop productivity. The decline might only occur by a percent or two each year. Even so, that change would hurt farmers’ livelihoods and food availability, especially over time.

In West Africa, drought is one of several factors perpetuating a food shortage that experts say could become the worst on record. As of April 2022, there were about 27 million people in the region suffering from hunger. However, that figure could rise to 38 million by June. 

A study from the United Nations World Food Programme showed the effects of a 35.6 F temperature increase in average global temperatures from pre-industrial levels. That change would see 189 million more people going hungry. 

While commenting on his organization’s study, executive director David Beasley said, “Conflict is plunging millions into hunger today, but the climate crisis has the potential to dwarf conflict as the main cause of hunger tomorrow. We urgently need to invest in early warning systems and climate adaptation and resilience programs to avert this looming humanitarian disaster.”

The Ukraine Invasion

Fears of food shortages arguably became even more prominent once Russia invaded Ukraine. Christopher A. Ripple, who teaches an American food governance course at the University of Virginia, said people are right to be concerned. “Our food system relies on the production of a relatively small number of large food commodity exporters. Ukraine and Russia are two of the most significant,” he explained. 

He continued, “As a result of the war, harvested crops in Ukraine will not make it to market, and Ukrainian farmers will be prevented from planting for the next harvest. Russia is banning exports of some commodities, and its future exports are in doubt because of sanctions and uncertainties about whether its farmers will have access to seeds and other inputs.”

Food Shortages: 2022 Regional Differences

In the United Kingdom, supermarkets began rationing cooking oil to cope with an ongoing shortage hitting that region and others. Russia and Ukraine collectively account for about 60% of the world’s sunflower oil production.  Making matters worse are the rising prices for substitutes, such as rapeseed and palm oil. People may not immediately connect sunflower oil to food shortages. However, it goes into hundreds of types of consumable products. It’s an ingredient in other staples, like cleaning products, too. 

As of early March 2022, many Middle Eastern and African nations were already experiencing higher food prices due to the Ukraine crisis. Turkey and Egypt had the biggest resulting disruptions to agricultural deliveries by that point, experts said.  They warned of numerous knock-on effects that could occur, especially since Russia and Ukraine collectively export significant amounts of crops like wheat and barley. 

Regarding the United States, many experts don’t expect the war to cause food shortages in the country. However, people will likely have to pay more to get what they want. The U.S. Department of Agriculture anticipates an up to 4% rise in food-at-home prices by the end of 2022. That’s worrisome, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected many people’s incomes. 

Food Shortages: 2022 Coping Tips 

It’s hard to predict how the issues mentioned here could have impacts outside of this year. However, the practical reality is that none of these issues will magically disappear in the short term. With that in mind, here are some suggestions you can use to react to ongoing food shortages.

Be flexible and know you may not be able to get every item you want on each grocery trip. If the things you want are available, you may need to pay more for them. 

If you can afford to donate money to areas most affected by food shortages, consider doing that. Many reputable charitable organizations allow making a one-off contribution or donating an amount every month. 

Lastly, try not to become too preoccupied with news reports. It’s good to be aware of possible food supply chain issues, but you don’t want to dwell on them to the point that it harms your mental health. 

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.

Author

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a technology and industrial journalist and the Editor in Chief of Revolutionized. She enjoys reading and writing about how technology is changing the world around us.

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