Facts and figures
According to the FAO, food prices reached an all-time high in February 2011, a spike that was even more pronounced than in 2008. For example, maize price increases exceeded 2008 levels even when adjusting for inflation (ref 1).
Three main reasons for food price increases: biofuel production; commodity trading, climate change, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (ref 1).
“Dangerous levels,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick described global food prices in February. He continued “There is a real stress point that could have social and political implications” (ref 1).
Volatile future: variable food prices are predicted to continue from 2011 due to stronger linkages between agricultural and energy markets, and an increased frequency of weather shocks (ref 2).
Food price volatility affects smallholder farmers and smaller countries more severely relative to larger food producers (ref 2).
Large short-term food price changes can have long-term impacts on development. Fluctuating income can reduce children’s consumption of key nutrients which has knock on effects on e.g. education, health, which can later slow economic development (ref 2).
30%: increase in prices in the first six months of 2008 attributable to trade restriction. Export restrictions also contributed to the price increases in 2010 and 2011 (ref 1).
During the 2008 food price spike, general UK food cupboard items, such as tinned foods, increased in price by 15% and seven items in a BBC survey by more than 40%. For example, a pack of four croissants was 47.4% more expensive and a 125g packet of ham up by 45.4% (ref 2).
The 2008 food price spike caused riots or civil unrest in a number of countries, including Yemen, Somalia, Senegal, Pakistan, Mozambique, Indonesia, India, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Bangladesh (ref 4, ref 5).
According to projections, mean commodity prices from 2011 are expected to be higher over the next decade than in the preceding decade (ref 7).
925M people are estimated to be undernourished in 2010, 16% of the population of developing countries -- above the Millennium Development Goal to halve to 10% the proportion of undernourished between 1990 and 2015 (ref 7, (ref 8).
Most of the world’s ~925M hungry people (62%) live in the world’s most populous region, Asia and the Pacific, followed by sub-Saharan Africa (26%) (ref 7).
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) combines three equally weighted factors: 1) proportion of undernourished as a percentage of the population; 2) proportion of children under five who are underweight; 3) child mortality (ref 1).
15 countries were able to reduce their GHI scores by 50% or more between 1990 and 2011; 19 countries moved out of the ‘extremely alarming’ and ‘alarming’ categories (ref 1).
Progress: Angola, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, and Vietnam saw the largest total improvements between 1990 and 2011 GHI scores (ref 1).
The countries with extremely alarming 2011 GHI scores – Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea – are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the countries with alarming GHI scores are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (ref 1).
Overall, hunger is falling: the 1990 world GHI fell by 26% (from a score of 19.7 to 14.6) by 2011, driven by reductions in the proportion of underweight children under five. (This does not mean that hunger has reduced by a quarter.) (ref 1)
2.2%: average annual growth in world agricultural production from 1997 to 2007 (ref 9).
Too many mouths: net food imports by sub-Saharan Africa countries increased more than 60% in the last 10 years as population growth has outstripped growth in food production (ref 7).
Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS): in June 2011 G20 leaders agreed to launch AMIS to encourage major players in global agrifood markets to share data, enhance existing information systems, promote greater understanding of food price developments, and advance policy dialogue and cooperation (ref 1).
It is hoped that AMIS will improve on and coordinate with existing global and regional early warning systems for food security and vulnerability; improve countries’ decision making on food security matters and help reduce price volatility. But, so far, private companies are merely urged to participate in AMIS (ref 1).
Food imports have risen most rapidly in Asia, increasing in volume by almost 75% between 2000 and 2010 (ref 7).
80% self sufficiency in food supplies: a Tajik food security law adopted by Parliament in late December 2010, but only seven per cent of Tajikistan’s land base is arable and half the country is above 3000m (ref 1).
More people die each year from hunger and malnutrition than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined (ref 10).
The world’s population is projected to increase to 9Bn by 2050 – including Africa’s population to double from 1 to 2Bn – the only continent that is not self-sufficient in food production (ref 11).
The G8 group of industrialised nations committed funding of $20Bn over 3 years to the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative (ASIF) in July 2009; the UK contributes $1.8Bn (in addition to the UK’s spending on humanitarian aid) (ref 13).
It takes 7-10kg of grain to produce 1kg of meat, and meat consumption is rising in the most populous nations (ref 12).
25%: Agriculture, including land clearing, accounts for a quarter of the country's greenhouse gas emissions (ref 9).
Deforestation and land use changes associated with agriculture account for over 70% of Brazil’s greenhouse-gas emissions, which is the fifth biggest emitter of GHGs in the world (ref 9).
12M hectares: estimated amount of agricultural land that is lost to land degradation each year; enough to produce up to 20M tonnes of grain (ref 9).
Good and bad: climate change will offer new opportunities by extending the geographic range of some crops (ref 11).
Farming accounts for 70% of the world’s use of fresh water that is extracted globally for human use (ref 11).
3.7Bn hectares: area of croplands, pasture and grazing lands devoted to raising animals (ref 9).
383.6kg per hectare: chemical fertilizer use in China that is causing local pollution and increasing greenhouse gas emissions (ref 9).
12-14%: estimated decline in world rice production by 2050 due to effects of climate change (ref 9).
100%: the increase in biofuel production projected from 2007-09 to 2019, according to the OECD/FAO in 2011 (ref 1).
Fourfold: The amount that biofuel demand is expected to grow from 2008 to 2035 (ref 1).
Globally, it’s estimated that there are a billion overweight people (the same number as undernourished), 300M of them obese (ref 15).
Poor people in the developing world can spend from 50-80% of their income on food (ref 12).
4 out of 10: fraction of adults obese or overweight in France, where 40% of calories are obtained from fats. It’s all that cheese (ref 9).
Healthy option? A 2007 study in France revealed that 89% of all commercials during children's programmes were for products rich in sugar, fat or salt (ref 9).
See no evil: the study also found that 57% of children did not notice health messages (as a thin band on the screen or notice after the advert) in advertisements on French TV and cinema (ref 9).
Fat nation: in England 61% of people aged 16 or over and 30% of children were overweight or obese in 2009 (but there is evidence that the rate in adults is levelling off) (ref 8).
Vital statistic: average intakes of all vitamins and minerals met or exceeded recommended levels in 2009 in the UK (ref 8).
43%: proportion of agricultural labour force made up by women in developing countries – ranging from 20% in Latin America to 50% in Eastern Asia and up to 60% in sub-Saharan Africa (ref 16).
20-30%: estimated yield increase if women had the same access to productive resources as men; this could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4%, reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17% (ref 16).
Women in East and South-East Asia make significant contributions to the agricultural labour force, almost as high on average as in sub-Saharan Africa; in China it is almost 48% (ref 16).
Approximately 400M people, an estimated two-thirds of poor livestock keepers, are women (ref 16).
Female-headed households are as successful as male-headed households in generating income from their animals, and livestock ownership is particularly attractive to women in societies where access to land is restricted to men (ref 16).
Estimates vary, but in the developing world up to 37% of food harvested can be lost before it is consumed owing to insufficient processing, storage and transport. Figures for rice losses include 5-23% in China and 10-25% in Vietnam (ref 11, ref 17).
A review of food waste in the US calculated that 43Bn kg of food, just over a quarter of the amount available to consume, was lost from retailing onwards (ref 17).
Post-harvest losses of annual fruit and vegetable production in India are estimated at 20% due to inadequate transit, packaging and refrigeration (ref 9).
One third: amount of total food (around 1.3Bn tonnes) produced across the global system that never eaten (ref 9).
15%: Overall amount of edible food and drink purchases that are wasted each year in the UK (ref 18).
- IFPRI – Global Hunger Index 2011
- FAO – The State of Food Insecurity in the World (PDF)
- BBC – Cost of food: Global roundup
- BBC Special Report: the cost of food
- UN World Food Programme 2009 (PDF)
- Haiti's government falls after food riots
- World Food and Agriculture in review 2011, Part 2 (PDF)
- Defra – Statistics pocketbook 2011
- Achieving food security in the face of climate change (PDF)
- UN World Food Programme – Winning the War on Hunger
- BBSRC – Future directions in research relating to food security
- Food Matters: Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century
- G8 2009 Summit statement on food security (PDF)
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) Forth Assessment Report
- WHO – Global Strategy Diet & Physical Activity
- FAO Women in agriculture (PDF)
- Disappearing Food: How big are postharvest losses?
- WRAP – Down the drain