The recent increase in world food prices has highlighted a number of important issues. One of them is a reminder about the importance of agriculture in the livelihood of many people.
Many African and developing countries as they try to move from third world to a better world, have downplayed the role of agriculture in favor of industrialisation as the back bone of social economic development.
The current surge of world food prices suggests that, the abandoning of although driven by noble intentions, might be a mistake.
Agriculture has always been the cornerstone of a nation’s survival and later of its social economic progress. It has been widely stated that the use of agricultural products like corn for making biofuels has been a key factor in upsetting the status quo, as regards the prices of foodstuffs.
But what is obvious, is that the continued increase in world population could also be having adverse effects as regards the ability of nations to feed their citizens. The fact is that there are many mouths to feed, and this has put a lot of pressure on food production.
More still, others have argued that social economic development has been responsible for the skyrocketing of the cost of food. The increase in the number of middle classed people across the world has had an effect on the cost of basic commodities.
It is an obvious fact that when people move up the social ladder, they develop new tastes and desires. Rich people eat more than their poorer counterparts. In many cases these changes indicate a newly acquired social status. As countries develop, the world is going to need more and more food.
Agriculture thus remains a very important component of national development. Although countries have to industrialise and move into the information age, they do not have to abandon agricultural production.
In fact developing countries ought to take lessons from this entire phenomenon, and avoid the problems that are being faced by the developed countries. There is an ever increasing need to invest more in agriculture with specific emphasis on food production.
Large scale food production would be made possible by the mechanisation of agriculture specifically for developing countries.
In recent years cooperatives have lost their role in agriculture production. Cooperatives used to play a great role in this area.
Reviving them and developing them to suit the times could help developing countries avoid or curtail the effects of the ever rising prices of foodstuffs.
Moreover, the advance of freewheeling global capitalism has in a way allowed the entry of profiteers in all sectors including agriculture.
This creates the problem of what some pundits have described as uncouth players in the economies of some nations.
These are people who will seek to maximise profits at any cost including environmental degradation. Environmental degradation in the long run creates adverse effects on agricultural production.
Such people will, for example, encroach on wetlands in the interest of maximising profits and in the long run have a direct negative effect of food production.
High food prices can have a devastating effect on national stability and ultimately national progress. High commodity prices are known to have at times led to popular discontent in many countries, leading to violence in the streets and economic breakdown.
What this indicates, is that governments should have a direct role in regulating agriculture. In some countries the state fixes prices of essential commodities for strategic reasons. Although this is sometimes criticised, it is important to regulate the free market economics. This is social democracy at play.