Millennium Post

Price rise, not hunger

Price hikes have limited effect on consumers, states Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World. According to FAO, chronic hunger is when a person does not regularly get enough food to lead an active life.

The report, released on 1 October, this year, contradicts its own Food Price Index (FPI) report of 2009-2011 which predicted that large swings in primary food product prices that take place due to short-term changes in economic environment, would severely affect food security of the poor and break the declining trend of global chronic hunger. The new report, which FAO prepared with the help of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), states that when prices rise people tend to shift to cheaper and less nutritious foods rather than going hungry. This increases the risk of micronutrient deficiencies and foments malnutrition which can have long-term effects on people’s health.

The report, thus, considers hunger synonymous with undernourishment and states that despite a decline millions are still chronically hungry across the globe. In 2011-2013, one in every eight persons suffers from chronic hunger. In the same period, as many as 842 million people in developing regions suffered from chronic hunger, down from 868 million in 2010-2012. Compared to this, 15.7 million chronically hungry people live in developed countries. In 1996, WFP had targeted to halve the number of chronically hungry people in developing regions to 498 million by 2015. It looked like a distant dream, but 18 countries achieved the goal in 2012. Most of these countries were from Central Asia, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa (Ghana) and North America (Cuba). In 1990-1992, UN’s Millennium Development Goal-1 (MDG-1) had aimed to reduce the number of chronically hungry people in developing regions from 24 per cent to 12 per cent by 2015. The present trend indicates that prevalence of undernourishment in developing regions would be 13 per cent, marginally above the MDG target. With the target year close by, the report stresses the need to initiate programmes that would deliver fast results. Besides measures to improve access to food through safety nets, it also talks about the need for cash transfers and cash-and-voucher schemes to raise local demand for food, which would stimulate production. The three organisations have urged countries ‘to make considerable and immediate additional efforts’ to meet the MDG and WFP targets.

They have also called for nutrition-sensitive interventions in agriculture and food systems as a whole, and in public health and education, especially for women. ‘Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread. When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families, they can have an even more positive effect and spur rural development, by creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities, resulting in equitable economic growth,’ they said.

Down to Earth
Next Story
Share it