• The pandemic has exposed some of the world’s deepest inequalities
The world is heading towards an unprecedented food crisis.
Global food prices have hit the highest in almost a decade, heightening concerns over bulging grocery bills as economies struggle to exit the Covid-19 crisis.
A United Nations gauge of world food costs climbed for a 12th straight month in May, its longest stretch in a decade.
The world’s hunger problem has already reached its worst in years as the pandemic exacerbates food inequalities, compounding extreme weather and political conflicts.
The prolonged gains across the staple commodities are trickling through to store shelves, with countries from Kenya to Mexico reporting higher food costs.
The pain could be particularly pronounced in some of the poorest import-dependent nations, which have limited purchasing power and social safety net.
Worse still, the pandemic is upending global food supply chains, crippling economies and eroding consumer purchasing power.
Across the world, approximately 1.2bn people live in extreme poverty, on less than one dollar per day, according to a 2018 World Health Organisation report.
At least 17mn children suffer from severe acute malnutrition around the world, which is the direct cause of death for 2mn children every year.
Here’s the disturbing other side of the lingering tragedy.
One-third of all food produced – around 1.3bn tonnes a year – is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. It costs the global economy close to $940bn each year.
In the Gulf, between a third and half of the food produced is estimated to go to waste.
Last year, the massive hunger spike was shaping up at a time of enormous global food surpluses across the world.
In Queens, New York, the lines forming around a food bank were eight hours long as people waited for a box of supplies that would last them a week. At the same time, farmers in California were plowing over lettuce, and fruits were rotting on trees in Washington.
In Uganda, bananas and tomatoes were piling up in open-air markets, and even nearly give-away prices weren’t low enough for out-of-work buyers.
Supplies of rice and meat were left floating at ports earlier last year after logistical jams in the Philippines, China and Nigeria.
Soaring food prices have broad repercussions for households and businesses, and threaten a world economy trying to recover from the damage of the coronavirus pandemic.
And for central banks, a spike in prices at a time of weak growth creates an unwelcome choice and could limit their ability to loosen policy.
Globally, coronavirus infections have topped 173.7mn and deaths exceeded 3.73mn, according to a Bloomberg tracker.
The pandemic has exposed some of the world’s deepest inequalities. It’s also a determining force behind who gets to eat and who doesn’t, while the richest keep enjoying a breakneck pace of wealth accumulation.
The UN has warned that the global food problem is worsening and some nations in Africa and the Middle East could soon slip into famine with conflicts, economic hardships, weather extremes – and now the Covid-19 crisis – limiting access to food.
It has also stirred memories of 2008 and 2011, when price spikes led to food riots in more than 30 nations.
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