Knowledge for better food systems

Report by WFP on the “true” cost of a plate of food around the world

Where in the world is the most expensive plate of food? In this publication the World Food Programme calculates the relative price of a nutritious meal in countries around the globe when compared to the average daily income and finds that the world’s poorest would have to pay more than a day’s wages for a single plate of sufficient food.

This report details the findings of their ‘Plate of Food’ index of the relative cost of food in 33 countries against a single baseline and finds very large differences in food purchasing power.

Figure 1: The amount residents of New York State would have to pay for a simple plate of food if they spent the same proportion of their daily income as people in these selected countries, 2016
(Right part of image not displayed here - The last three countries are: Syria, northeast Nigeria and South Sudan)

The greatest extremes are seen between the US and conflict zones in Syria, northeast Nigeria, and South Sudan:

‘So that while a New Yorker might expect to spend just 0.6 percent of their daily income on the ingredients to make a simple 600 kilocalorie bean stew, someone in South Sudan would need to spend as much as 155 percent of their income. Or, to approach it from the other end, it would be as if a resident of the Empire State were to pay US$321 for their stew.’

The report also examines the reasons for this disparity including conflict, political and economic insecurity, climate change, broken supply chains, retail inefficiencies and, post-harvest losses. It ends with an assessment of the cost of securing appropriately nutritious food for diverse demographics, ‘the cost of the right food for all’, and recommendations for action.

You can read the report here, and coverage by The Guardian here.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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