chicoma1_ERNESTO BENAVIDESAFP via Getty Images_potato farm peru ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images

Food Insecurity Amid Abundance

A combination of domestic and global forces has pushed Peru into an acute food crisis, despite the country’s natural strength as a source of diverse, nutritious agricultural products. In fact, the country is a microcosm for a global food system that has proved woefully unequal to today’s challenges.

LIMA – Peru is a food paradox. One of the countries that gave the world potatoes, tomatoes, and quinoa is teetering on the brink of a food crisis that looks set to be among the most severe in Latin America. With food insecurity (defined as a lack of reliable access to sufficient nutrition) already affecting almost half of the Peruvian population, today’s global fertilizer shortage and rising energy and food prices have sparked protests and social unrest.

Both Russia’s war in Ukraine and Peru’s own political leadership are to blame. Peru’s government, with its fifth agriculture minister in less than a year and facing serious corruption allegations, has done little to find an alternative to Russian fertilizer, even though the country’s two main staples – rice and potatoes – are heavily dependent on it. But Peru’s challenges are also tied to problems besetting the world food system. Solutions thus will require multilateral action.

While current conditions have made matters worse, the Peruvian food system has been broken for decades, owing to global and domestic forces that have promoted export-oriented industrialized agriculture, homogenized diets, and dependence on imports for staple foods. In the process, Peru has sacrificed smallholder agriculture, food security, and biodiversity. Small-scale agriculture receives almost no state support, even though the sector employs more than 80% of agricultural workers and accounts for 57% of Peru’s total food supply. Most smallholder farmers must manage a vicious circle of low capacity, meager incomes, and food insecurity.

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