What is Food Security?

The United Nations Committee on World Food Security defines Food security as a situation whereby 'all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. 

Threats to Global Food Security

The issue of food security has become a top priority amongst world leaders due to a combination of co-existing factors that have resulted in a global food crisis driven by a lack of access to nutrition for many.

 The World Programme estimated that the number of food insecure people has doubled since the pandemic's beginning from 135 million to 276 million people in just two years. This number is expected to rise to 323 million in 2022 due to the effects of the war in Ukraine. The UN Secretary-General warns that the situation could worsen in 2023 with lack of access, as well as lack of food, becoming a real threat stating, "We need to bring stability to global food and energy markets to break the vicious cycle of rising prices and bring relief to developing countries". 

Once more, import-dependent countries, such as Africa and the Middle East, are the most vulnerable to these trade disruptions as they are already facing the threat of severe famine due to the impacts of climate change.

A recent report on 'Kenya's Food Security Outlooks' highlights the impacts derived from these intertwined factors that have led to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in some parts of the region, with 4.1 million Kenyans in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) now acutely food insecure due to a combination of livestock deaths resulting from drought and crop failure and disrupted market supply of imported grains such as Maize because of increased global food prices incurred by the impact of the conflict in Ukraine.

Ireland's Role in Global and Domestic Food Security

Ireland's new ten-year Strategy for the Irish agri-food sector is called Food Vision 2030. Plans under this Strategy involve the expansion of Ireland's intensive agri-food system. These plans are based on the conviction that Ireland's food production is fundamental to global food security and that the country plays a vital role in feeding and nourishing people at home and abroad. At a domestic level, Ireland's Food Board states that with regards to meat- and dairy-based foods, Ireland produces more than enough to feed itself many times over. 

 However, recently, multiple emerging factors have raised doubt concerning how secure Ireland's food system is. The current national food model, predominantly driven by beef and dairy exports, does not adequately secure long-standing nutritious food for the Irish population or the world. They are luxury items often imposed on foreign markets that do not rely on these commodities as dietary staples.

Ireland's growth projections under Food Wise 2025 were largely met by early 2020, causing challenges for the sector to seek further market opportunities abroad due to this rapid expansion without damaging the environment along the way. Cheap, subsidised imports from the EU to third-world countries hurt the environment and, in many cases, outcompete smallholder farmers who cannot meet the same production levels at a reduced price and are already being hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change that Ireland's current agri-food model significantly contributes to. They are also the least equipped to deal with these impacts causing massive losses to livelihoods and viable food sources.

Once more, Ireland's food system is over-reliant on importing large quantities of unsustainably sourced animal grain with carbon-heavy footprints from less regulated regions such as South America's Mercosur countries to support its export-based agri-food industry. This is because Ireland is just 36pc self-sufficient in animal concentrate feeds which are key dietary source requirements for pig, poultry, and livestock production systems. This damages the authenticity of Irish food exports in the context of Origin Greens' Ireland's Sustainable Food Programmes grass-fed brands. Ireland's dependency on imported grain for the agricultural sector also has huge implications for food security at home and abroad in the case of abrupt access issues due to trade disruption that arise from unforeseen external events.

In addition, conventional farming practices that Ireland currently exercises exacerbate worrying trends in national biodiversity levels, emissions profiles, and environmental quality. This puts Ireland's ability to contribute to domestic and international food security at risk by reducing the quality of conditions that such practices rely upon, i.e., soil health, water, air quality, etc.


If Ireland wants to contribute to both domestic and international food security, it must first focus on the potential for local and shorter supply chains to bolster the revitalization of Ireland's rural economy. This approach would involve growing crops locally which are suitable for Ireland's landscape instead of relying on high volumes of imported fruit and vegetables. By expanding small-scale, local food production, Ireland could make its food system more secure and resilient to unforeseen external forces such as war, trade disruptions, and climate change. 

Organic farming must go beyond its current national target range to reverse adverse trends in national emissions and biodiversity loss. Therefore, Ireland's carrying capacity for food production must be better utilised. This approach to food security would align with recent recommendations for Ireland's food production system from the European Commission as well as the EU's progressive new policy on food production, 'The Farm to Fork Strategy'.

Finally, domestic food production is essential in driving poverty reduction and environmental sustainability, especially for countries that cannot compete with cheap imports. Therefore, Ireland must do more to bolster community businesses abroad to support smallholder farmers, which are key to achieving SDG 2 to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.