New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 225

new internationalist
issue 225 - November 1991


 There is more than enough food grown in the world to go round.
But the rich world both produces and consumes far more than it needs,
while many in the developing world still go hungry.

Too much for health, not enough for life.

Cereal grains such as rice, wheat and maize are staple foods for the world’s people. Each region's share of world grain production is out of proportion to its share of the world's population.

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In 1988 67 countries received food aid.3 Some of them – Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia – were in dire need of food supplies. But the appearance of others at the top of this particular league table has much more to do with their status as key Western strategic allies.

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The World Health Organization recommends a minimum daily adult calorie consumption of 2,600 per head with variations for age, occupation and other factors. Yet average consumption in many poor countries falls far below this minimum, while that in rich countries is far in excess of it.

Many Third World countries are dependent on the world market price of just a few agricultural crops. During the 1980s prices for many primary commodities fell to their lowest levels since World War Two. Despite some recovery, average prices are still lower than in 1980.

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In many developing countries food production per head has declined over the last decade, often because farming is disrupted by civil war.

Growth per head in food production between 1977 and 19887, selected countries
(including those featured in this issue).

Illustration: CLIVE OFFLEY
Nicaragua        - 5.5
Zambia             - 3.2
Mozambique    - 2.2
Bangladesh      - 1.5
Philippines       - 0.7
Ethiopia           - 0.4
Ghana              - 0.6
India                - 0.7
Brazil               - 0.8
China               - 3.5

1 The State of World Population 1991, UNFPA.
2 The State of Food and Agriculture 1989 , FAO.
3 Human Development Report 1991 , UNDP.
4 The State of the World’s Children 1991, UNICEF.
5 World Development Report 1991 , World Bank.
6 World Health Organization.
7 The Economist Book of World Vital Statistics 1990.

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