The Poor Across The Globe Are Suffering Due To Soaring Food Prices
Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe engulfing lives of millions, constraining basic civic freedoms, shutting down businesses and thereby restraining global movement of goods. And while the vaccination has given us optimism, the pandemic-led restrictions have disrupted global supply of food which is far from reaching to normality. The poor countries are at disproportionately greater disadvantage in terms of challenges to food security, especially shortage of essentials and inflation. The despair has even hit wealthier developing nations where malnutrition a problem which had been virtually wiped out previously is emerging, noted the WSJ.
Add the shortage of food and restrictions on movement that affect its supply, food prices have jumped by nearly a third over the past year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The basic staples like corn prices are 67% higher than a year ago, the FAO says, while sugar is up nearly 60%, and prices for cooking oil have doubled.
Hardest hit are those in poor countries like Pakistan who were already living hand to mouth, including low-skilled labor and many working in the informal sector. Because they spend so much of their income on food, price rises are hard to absorb. In Pakistan, the prices of chicken, tomatoes and eggs are up 85%, 60% and 46%, respectively, over the past year to April 2021. In Pakistan’s most populated and richest province, Punjab, 61% of households in January this year said that they made compromises on food, such as reducing the number or size of meals, according to a survey by the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan.
With incomes decimated and hikes to prices with no end in sight, highly vulnerable are those already on the edges of poverty line – amid are the children who would not receive the required nutrition. The World Bank estimates that up to 124 million people sank below the international poverty line—living on less than $1.90 a day—in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Up to 39 million people more are expected to be added in 2021.
The surge in prices is crippling lives of millions, forcing them into hunger that is becoming a cause of new social and political problems let alone worsening the existing inequalities.
There have been protests and demonstrations in several countries in Asia and Latin America. The hike contributed to political instability in recent decades in the “Arab Spring” revolutions. Colombia’s streets had angry people marching, Sudan had to impose emergency in several cities and people in Brazil, Argentina and Pakistan have had to cut down on expensive meat consumption. There was a crisis of sugar in Pakistan leading to official inquiry. Thus, expensive food in addition to pandemic-led hardships is part of the mix in several countries now experiencing unrest. The WFP says 270 million people are suffering from acute malnutrition or worse situations in the 79 countries in which the agency operates—double the number in 2019. Rising hunger is leading a new wave of migrations.