Raise food prices to better feed the poor, urges expert

A former senior agricultural economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has said low food prices driven by subsidies and retail pressure make it harder for people in poor countries to eat well, and also contribute to health and environmental problems in rich countries.

Image:Aidan Jones
Image:Aidan Jones
Writing on the Global Food Security website, Andrew MacMillan said: "Policies that keep consumer food prices low, especially when combined with further downward pressure on prices from supermarkets as they compete for customers, may raise the incidence of hunger and malnutrition in the medium- to long-term."

This is because most of the world's poor live in rural areas where agriculture is the main source of income, he explained.

The food price spike from 2007-08 onwards "led to a steady fall in the number of hungry in spite of the jump in prices", whereas food prices fell in real terms over more than 20 years up to 2007-08, making farming less attractive and accelerating rural-urban migration, he said.

Rising prices would also benefit developed countries, he added, where consumers "could easily absorb a substantial rise in food costs – even if they might complain loudly", he argued.

"Rising prices will also discourage food over-consumption, cutting future health costs from the overweight and obesity epidemic now affecting more than 1.5 billion people," while also cutting food waste and associated environmental costs, he said.

Meanwhile improving the diet of the poorest billion people "would still cost less than about 10 per cent of the OECD countries' farm subsidies".

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

What challenges and opportunities lie in store for tomato growers?

What challenges and opportunities lie in store for tomato growers?

The British Tomato Growers Association (TGA) conference today (21 September) heard a range of perspectives on what changes lie in store for the sector and how to anticipate them.

Buoyant demand for UK apples but frost and labour remain concerns

Buoyant demand for UK apples but frost and labour remain concerns

As the British apple season begins, English Apples & Pears (EAP) is warning that growers will feel the effects of both a late frost in spring and also constrained labour supply.

Tomorrow's tractors

Tomorrow's tractors

These machines have advanced rapidly over recent years but what does the future hold? Sally Drury looks ahead.


Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production
 

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon