Food becomes ever less affordable in countries in conflict or subject to political instability, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns in mid-October 2018.
Taking food costs in New York, USA as a reference point, WFP has found that a resident of the Empire state might spend USD 1.20 to cook a simple soup or stew (say, some beans or lentils, a handful of rice, plus water and oil). By contrast, a citizen of South Sudan would need to fork out more than two days’ income – the New York equivalent of USD 348.36 – for a similar meal; a resident of North-east Nigeria, USS 222.05; and a Yemeni national, USD 62.37.
All three are countries or regions where famine is a looming threat. In these three countries, rising food costs closely track the trajectory of conflicts. For many people there, survival would not be possible without assistance from WFP and other partners.
These are findings from the second edition of WFP’s Counting the Beans index which covers 52 developing nations. The index assumes an identical per-capita average income across the globe and calculates what percentage of this income people must spend for a 600kcal home-cooked meal. It then works out an “as-experienced” price against that standardised income. Daily GDP per capita figures have been used – or, where not available or reliable, personal income numbers based on remittance records and other sources.
In many countries, food affordability measured in this way has actually improved since 2017. In one situation, this could be thanks to strong economic growth; in another, to greater stability, a better rainy season, or – as in the case of southern Africa – humanitarian assistance helping offset the effects of severe drought.
Even so, food costs often remain intensely disproportionate in relation to income. This is the case across much of Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and, to a lesser degree, of Latin America.
Full numbers and individual country analysis for the 52 nations surveyed are available at the Counting the Beans index website: wfp.org/plateoffood