Food, a luxury for some?

THERE’S MORE than one way in which ‘freak’ weather affects our lives.

Published: Sat 1 Sep 2012, 8:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:53 AM

It doesn’t just make us vulnerable to perilous natural disasters like floods, it also has a great impact on what and how much we eat. This year witnessed the highest rise in prices of grain like wheat, corn and soya bean, according to the World Bank. Due to the worst drought in the past 50 years, the soya bean and maize harvest suffered record lows in the US, while wheat crops were badly spoiled in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The reduction in output has made food prices skyrocket — from June to July, corn and wheat prices increased each by 25%, while soybean prices increased by 17%, according to the World Bank.

This is alarming news — particularly for countries in the Middle East and North and Sub-saharan Africa, which import most of their food. Over seven billion people live in the world today, but recent figures show that population growth is currently the fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa—the region with very high levels of malnutrition and poverty. With so many mouths to feed, and low financial affordability, the world’s poorest are going to be seriously affected by soaring food prices.

Perhaps the most heartrending paradox about millions of people suffering from hunger is the fact that about one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted every day, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. A 2011 UN study revealed that the average European or North American consumer wastes 95kg-115kg of food a year — a stark contrast with an average consumer in a developing country in Sub-saharan Africa or South-east Asia, who wastes 6kg-11kg of food.

Thus, as people in the developed world continue to carelessly shop for their food in bulk, and later waste it, others in poor countries actually have to face a terrible dilemma: to feed their children or educate them? Moreover, wastage of food actually affects its price — if consumers in rich countries continue to buy more than they use, it positively affects the demand of the product and in turn raises the prices.

But even the governments of these countries are not taking any steps to mitigate the price hike of basic food items that will seriously affect people living below poverty line. The G-20 countries have not taken any action against the soaring prices of food yet and this complacent attitude will only result in more suffering among the destitute population of the world.

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