Remember what the IMF predicted for us exactly a year ago: the coronavirus strangled the global economy, but soon it will loosen its grip and business activity will quickly recover. A month later, the International Monetary Fund, we must pay tribute to its leaders, admitted that he was wrong. Everything turned out to be much worse.
Oleg Kobyakov, Director of the Moscow Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in an interview with Novye Izvestia, cited the latest FAO data on the state of affairs in the field of food supply for the world's inhabitants. He stressed that the number of hungry people in the world is growing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions and disruptions in food chains associated with it, as well as the fall in disposable income of people, led to the fact that about 130 million people were thrown below the poverty line, and the total number of hungry people exceeded 800 million".
A new report from the anti-poverty organization Oxfam shows that the number of people suffering from hunger worldwide increased almost sixfold from the end of 2019 to June 2021.
Even before the coronavirus crisis, 680 million people around the world did not eat enough calories. In addition to seven African countries, including South Sudan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Haiti and Afghanistan, were particularly hard hit by food shortages.
The IMF rebuilt itself immediately. "The problem with hunger threatens to worsen, and the consequences could be dire", - says IMF economic analyst Erwin Prifty. "Malnutrition can lead to social unrest in the short term, and in the long term, to a drop in productivity, human potential and economic growth".
The most vulnerable segments of the population - women, children, migrants and workers in the informal sector of the economy - are hardest hit.
The IMF report indicates that the sharp rise in deaths associated with hunger comes amid an increase in global military spending, which rose by $ 51 billion, 6.5 times more than it takes to end hunger. At the same time, the fortunes of the ten richest people in the world increased by $ 413 billion in a year. This is 11 times more than, say, the estimated cost of organizing humanitarian aid around the world.
Why are prices going up?
Carrots, potatoes and beets have risen in price several times this summer. If in the spring a kilogram of "borsch" vegetables could be bought for 30-40 rubles, now the cost reaches hundreds, both in supermarkets and on the market. The Russians are indignant, what is the reason for the jump - seasonality or greed?
The FAO food price index rose 31 percentage points from March 2020 to June 2021, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.
This index is based on the average cost that importers must pay, not retail prices. But the rise in prices for staple foods is also seen in supermarkets and market stalls around the world. Now, for example, South Africans and Russians have to spend about 30% more on tomatoes, vegetable oils and legumes than a year ago.
In Brazil, people are complaining about rising prices for beef, chicken and rice. Traditional Indian bean soup has also become significantly more expensive.
The IMF analysts point out that the rise in food prices began even before the crisis caused by the coronavirus. At the start of the pandemic, lockdowns, bulk purchases of food due to fear of price increases, and disruptions in rice and wheat exports disrupted supply chains and caused prices to rise.
In addition, there was an increase in transport costs, which also influenced consumer prices. Over the past 12 months, sea freight has doubled in price, numerous passenger flights have been canceled - with their help, food was also delivered earlier. More expensive gasoline and kilometer-long traffic jams have also increased the cost of ground transportation.
Meanwhile, demand for agricultural products remained strong, in part because China decided to replenish its stocks and purchase large quantities of soybeans. The global growth in demand for biofuels has also played a role in driving up the price of vegetable oils.
At the same time, extreme weather conditions disrupted palm oil production, for example in Indonesia, and led to droughts and crop failures in many traditional exporting countries such as Brazil, Argentina, as well as Russia, Ukraine and the United States.
To mitigate the food shock and its consequences, according to experts, it is necessary to increase expenditures from the state, that is, payments to the poorest segments of the population. It usually does not happen that products are completely absent. People simply cannot afford them.
How are things in Russia?
Against the background of the pandemic, the problem of poverty of the population has aggravated in the world, said the head of the Accounts Chamber, Alexey Kudrin. According to him, the Russian authorities were able to cope with this scourge for a very long time. Russia has overcome the most serious poverty.
According to experts, a person lives below the poverty line if he spends a little more than $ 1 a day. As Kudrin noted, at the beginning of the pandemic, 8.2 percent of the world's population lived below the poverty line, which is a fairly high figure. Now this figure has increased to 8.8 percent. Earlier, he asked the Russian authorities to take more serious measures to combat poverty.
As of October 2020, there are about 20 million citizens in Russia living below the poverty line. Head of the Ministry of Labor Anton Kotyakov clarified that this is about 13.5 percent of the total population of Russia. Earlier, President Vladimir Putin called for the use of a social contract to combat poverty. Under its terms, citizens will be provided with the necessary assistance, goods and services.
In the summer of 2021, Russia announced the successful elimination of extreme poverty. Relevant information was provided in the report on the implementation of the "Sustainable Development Goals", which was presented to the UN. By 2024, it is planned to reduce the national poverty level of the population by at least two times.
The review also reported that in Russia, in fact, it was possible to defeat the problem of hunger, and for further successful work it is necessary to "intensify the joint efforts of the state, business and society."
“By definition, there can be no hunger in Russia,” Igor Abakumov, an anchor of the “Selsky Chas” TV channel, told NI. “We are gradually becoming a powerful agro-industrial power. We have a large territory, many climatic and agricultural zones. If there is a drought or flood in one place, the sun will shine clearly in another and the neighbors will not be left in distress. So, the topic of hunger in Russia can be safely closed.
Oleg Kobyakov, Director of the Moscow Office of FAO, noted that Russia, historically, has overcome hunger and is gradually turning into a world granary.
The international official also drew attention to the stable growth of agricultural production in Russia in recent years, which allowed the country to move to the forefront of exporting not only traditional energy resources, but also food.
Oleg Kobyakov stressed the responsibility of Russia and its private sector for ensuring global food security.
“Russia, of course, is not obliged to feed anyone other than its own population. However, as a leading exporter meeting the needs of a large number of countries and entire subregions, in particular, grain, it must strive to ensure stable, predictable food supplies, independent of restrictive measures and market price fluctuations”, - said Oleg Kobyakov.