Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Rising food prices will have disproportionately greater impact on poorer countries

Changes in global food prices will have a greater effect on food consumption in lower income countries and in poorer households within countries, according to new research published in BMJ.

The findings have important implications for national responses to increases in food prices and for policies designed to reduce the global burden of undernutrition.

Researchers, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, analysed 136 studies reporting 3,495 changes in food price from 162 different countries.

They found that within all countries, poorer households will be the most adversely affected by increases in food prices. In low income countries a 1% increase in the price of cereals results in reductions in consumption of 0.61% compared to a reduction of 0.43% in high income countries. A 1% increase in the price of meat results in reductions in consumption of 0.78% in low income countries compared to 0.60% in high income countries.

Lead author, Rosemary Green, Research Fellow in Nutrition and Sustainability at the School, said: “People change their consumption of different foods to varying degrees when prices change. For example, when prices rise our estimates suggest that consumption of meat and dairy foods will drop more than that of staple foods such as cereals. This may reduce the diversity of the diet especially in poor populations and affect the balance of nutrients in diets.”

Co-author, Dr Alan Dangour, Head of the Nutrition Group at the School, added: “This is the first time that the global evidence base on the link between food prices and demand for food has been collated. We identified that poorer people in low-income countries will be most adversely affected by higher food prices and it is likely that the changes in the patterns of food consumed especially by poor people will adversely affect nutrition and health outcomes. This is an enormously important finding for policy makers aiming to ensure global food and nutrition security.”

(Image: Food market in Saigon. Credit: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons)


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