Picture: WFP/David Orr
Picture: WFP/David Orr

By Oladapo Okeowo

A new data released on Friday by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on its website has revealed huge disparities in the cost of nutritious meals, saying the poor pay far more than the rich.

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The data was made available from research the WFP  calls “Hot Dinner Data” as world political and economic leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum.

According to the Chief Economist of WFP, Arif Husain, “The Hot Dinner Data analysis aims to hold a new mirror up to the world – one which illustrates the distortions in the purchasing power of the rich and the poor as they try to meet their basic food needs.

“It is a reminder that access to affordable, nutritious food should be a right for all.

“Hot Dinner Data reveals that people in the developing world pay as much as 100 times more for a basic plate of food than those who live in wealthier nations.

“In the most extreme circumstances, for example, in regions under conflict, the cost can be 300 times higher.

Using a bowl of bean stew – a standard nutritious meal throughout regions and cultures – as an example, he said a person in Switzerland would pay about 0.88 Swiss Francs (CHF), or an average 0.41 per cent of their daily income while it would cost a person in Malawi 100 times that. A Malawi resident would have to give up 41 per cent of his daily income.

The comparison was done after necessary adjustments had been made to take into account average daily income.

In Syria, a war-ravaged country, the case is said to be more extreme as a bean stew costs far beyond a person’s average daily income.

The high cost of food in poorer nations tends to be driven by losses created by deficient storage, transportation, and distribution systems; and excessive reliance on only a few staple crops.

Other factors responsible for high cost of food are lack of market access for local farmers, lack of preparedness to respond to changing climates, and frequent violent conflicts.

To address these challenges, WFP advocates crop diversification, waste reduction, and more efficient supply chains, among other strategies aimed to make food affordable for everyone.

Husain said WFP is working with partners from the local to global levels to achieve the Zero Hunger goal of the Sustainable Development Agenda even as it vows to continue to highlight disparities in the price of food by expanding the Hot Dinner Data to include dozens more countries.