The global inflation crisis has hit Americans’ wallets hard, but the consequences have been even more severe for much of the world. According to an report last month According to the World Bank, food in many countries is now 10 to 30 percent more expensive than a year ago.
High food prices have a ripple effect on everything from nutrition and migration to conflict and even gender relations. Although food inflation is not as high as it was when the war in Ukraine began, any rise in the price of commodities such as wheat and oil brings the hundreds of millions of people in low-income countries who half their money on foods at risk of hunger.
Inflation exacerbates a global food crisis that leaves hundreds of millions of people suffering from malnutrition. Where food is most priceless, malnutrition is widespread, meaning people are underweight and have vitamin deficiencies, and children are not growing as high as they should be. Food insecurity not only affects health, but also forces people to leave their homes and increases the risk of conflict.
The three countries with the highest food inflation – Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Venezuela – have already experienced hyperinflation in recent years. (Hyperinflation is usually defined as very high inflation, usually a monthly rate of about 50 percent.) But in the past year, many other low- and middle-income countries have also had to deal with the twin inflation and food crises that have plagued these three countries.
The deteriorating picture for food security is just one of the most profound effects of the global price hike.
We’ve seen a break from rising prices – but food is still more expensive compared to a year ago
The world hunger situation is better than at the start of the war in Ukraine six months ago.
Global food prices have dropped in front of five consecutive months and are now back to their level of before the war, which had struck a peak. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) prices fell in August in all measured categories: grains, oil, dairy, meat and sugar.
About 200 million fewer people are estimated to be more food insecure now than at the start of the war or even at the end of 2021when food prices hit their 10-year high due to rising energy prices, the weather and an increase in global demand.
But that bit of reprieve comes amid a global food situation that is still largely bleak. International grain prices in August were 11.4 percent higher than a year earlier, and the FAO’s food price index, which measures monthly changes in food prices, is generally still much higher than in recent years.
The result: Far too many people still can’t afford the food they used to eat.
How Inflation Affects Hunger
Venezuela experienced hyperinflation from 2017 to earlier this year, said Diego Santana Fombona, an economist at Ecoanalítica, a consultancy based in Caracas. The main reason for this hyperinflation, he said, was that the government increased money supply in response to falling oil and tax revenues. While the government began decreasing money supply and allow foreign currency like the dollar circulating in 2019, hyperinflation continued into early this year.
While inflation in Venezuela has eased somewhat in recent months, food inflation — along with inflation in other necessities such as transportation and health care — is higher than headline inflation. This means that people can no longer afford the food for years. For Venezuelans living in extreme poverty, it is… difficult to maintain a nutritionally varied diet that includes vegetables, cheese and meat, said a humanitarian worker at an NGO in Caracas, who wished to remain anonymous because of their organization’s communications policy. Bread and grains are now what people can afford to eat — but if they have the extra money, they’ll opt for protein, because “if you have a little chicken and fish in the house, you’ll be rich.”
“People don’t eat well, and they’re used to not eating well,” said the NGO worker. “The food insecurity situation has been around for so many years that for many people, especially young people, this is all they remember.”
This year, most of the world has begun to experience what happens when food prices skyrocket. Even in countries where food inflation is not completely out of control, it affects food and nutrition. In the US, for example, a dozen eggs that would have cost $1.53 in 2019 (adjusted for inflation) cost $1.67 in 2021. So unless a person’s salary has increased by the same amount in recent years, food — especially animal products — takes up a larger portion of their income.
And while people in the US spend money about 10 percent of their income on average in food, in poorer countries this share can rise to 50 percent, the authors of the World Bank say Food Security Update told me in an email.
Preventing Hunger and Its Wrinkle Effects
Unaffordable food creates other problems. In addition to health and growth problems, malnutrition causes cognitive problems for young children that can affect them throughout their lives. Women are more likely malnourished than men, and that gender gap has only widened last year, further increasing the burden on women from a pandemic job loss and unpaid care.
In countries where people cannot afford the food for their families, they look for work in other regions or countries. This makes them vulnerable to human traffickingwhile leaving their children can be traumatic for families. famine too forcing people out of their homes.
“We need humanitarian aid going to the countries most in need,” said Marco Sanchez Cantillo, co-author of the FAO 2022. food security and nutrition report. To prevent hunger and prepare for long-term shocks, governments will need to address more structural factors to make food systems more sustainable, for example, reducing food waste, building rural roads and supporting food with greater nutritional value.
The authors of the World Bank report said that in addition to taking steps to fertilizers Because they are more affordable and available, governments can set aside trade restrictions, avoid food supplies and provide remittances to vulnerable households.
Global hunger has been moving in the right direction for a few months now, but the inflationary environment is still a cause for concern. Hundreds of millions of people cannot afford the food they could have before the pandemic, and it is the poorest people around the world who continue to be hit the hardest.