Food Fears Return

Lack of food is rarely the reason that people go hungry: the world today produces enough food to feed everyone. The problem is that more and more people simply cannot afford to buy the food they need.

ROME – Lack of food is rarely the reason that people go hungry. The world today produces enough food to feed everyone. The problem is that more and more people simply cannot afford to buy the food they need. Even before the recent food-price increases, a billion people were suffering from chronic hunger, while another two billion were experiencing malnutrition, bringing the total number of food-insecure people to around three billion, or almost half the world’s population.

Global food prices are at the highest level since the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) started monitoring them in 1990. The World Bank estimates that recent food-price increases have driven an additional 44 million people in developing countries into poverty.

The rapid rise in world prices for all basic food crops – corn, wheat, soybeans, and rice – along with other foods like cooking oils, has been devastating for poor households all over the world. But almost everybody’s standard of living has been reduced. Middle-class people are increasingly careful about their food purchases; the near-poor are losing headway and falling below, rather than staying above, the poverty line; and the poor and vulnerable, not surprisingly, are suffering even more.

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