World Food Day – time to act as food prices soar
This week is all about record-breakers, it seems.
Two days ago, skydiver Felix Baumgartner set the record for the highest skydive, and also set a YouTube live view record.
And this year’s World Food Day is no exception to the record-breaking trend.
Race Against Hunger
Around the world 20,000 children in 42 countries are running a 26-mile relay in Save the Children’s World Marathon Challenge. They’re time trying to break Patrick Makau’s world marathon record – while at the same time raising awareness of the urgent need to tackle child malnutrition.
Alongside their efforts, there’s huge pressure to break new ground in the global fight against the crisis of malnutrition.
There are positive signs. Some of the policy processes required to make action on malnutrition a reality are already starting to roll. The UK government has committed to prioritising hunger while it hosts the G8 next year.
And the Irish government has promised the same during their EU presidency next year.
The worst kind of record
But it’s likely that this World Food Day is also a record breaker for the wrong reasons – that food prices are higher today than they have been on any World Food Day since 1990.
Exactly one year ago today, the UN’s Food Price Index, which measures the price of food on international markets, was at 215.8.
Given that last month that index hit 216, and given the crop failures in the US and even in the UK, it’s likely that today the cost of food is even higher.
We’ve launched a new report that investigates what this means for developing countries and the children who live in them.
Our report finds that the poorest countries tend to be the most exposed to food price rises (73% of low income countries are net food importers).
Paying the price
Even more worryingly, those countries that are already struggling to fight high burdens of malnutrition tend to be most vulnerable to the impacts of price changes on global food markets. In countries that are ‘highly exposed’ to the negative effects of price rises 26% of children are underweight – compared with just 10% of children in ‘non-exposed’ countries.
These findings make abundantly clear the urgent need for decisive action to be taken on the drivers of high and volatile food prices as well as their impacts.
Our research shows how biofuel mandates of the EU and USA, which create a demand for food crops to be used as fuel in cars, are one of the key factors driving up food prices. They mean the stockpiles of food around the world become depleted, with the result that there are no reserves left to dampen price shocks when harvests fail.
It’s essential that the EU drops this policy, which is having devastating impacts on children’s nutrition and well-being around the world.
Challenging these kinds of structural factors that make children malnourished is essential.
We need to make record-breaking progress against the global crisis of malnutrition.