Daniele Giovannucci Raking coffee beans for drying - Photo by Andy Fawks
QuickFacts: Food & Trade

Food Facts at a Glance
#1: A child dies every 5 seconds
#2: Worsening Conditions
#3: Malnutrition
#4: So, how was your week?
#5 People living on less than US$ 2/day
#6: Undernourishment
#7: Living on marginal agriculture
#8: Impact on children
#9: No growth in food crop productivity
#10: Will it be feasible to ever end hunger?
#11: Countries at risk - poverty and agricultural dependence
#12: Hunger is not simply about more production
#13: Hunger is complex
#14: Trade liberalization and hunger
#15: World poverty distribution
#16: Water and livestock
#17: A brief understanding of hunger and its resolution

Agriculture Trade Facts at a Glance
#1: Steady Decline in Commodities
#2: New Implications of agri-food trade for developing nations
#3: Geographical Indications (GIs)
#4: Agriculture and added value
#5: Adding value to agri-food trade

Food Facts at a Glance

#1:  A child dies every 5 seconds because of hunger or food related illness.
A fellow human died needlessly in the time it took you to read that. Many are in Africa and South Asia, but even many affluent countries, including the US and much of the EU, are not immune from the abject poverty that leads to this. In fact, 54 countries - ¼ of the total - are chronically in a state of food insecurity.

Bottle Shoes#2:  Worsening conditions
A whopping 40 million more people were pushed into hunger in 2008, bringing the total to 963 million. We are shamefully likely to top the 1 billion mark in 2009. In developing regions, 22% of children under-five were significantly underweight in 2007.

Source: FAO (2008) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008: High food prices and food security. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome (ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/i0291e/i0291e00.pdf)

#3:  Malnutrition
Malnutrition is the number one risk to health worldwide - greater than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Source: United Nations World Health Organization

#4:  So, how was your week?
It can take a family about 100 hours per week to secure enough food just to live in countries such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Mexico (that’s 14 hours per day in some cases). In many countries, the hours of work needed to feed a household of five increased by 10-20% during 2008 and the situation is worsening.

Source: UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (2009)

#5:  People living on less than US$ 2/day
Map of pupulation living on less than $2/dayIn the world today, nearly half the population - some 2.6 billion people - are very poor and survive on less than 2 dollars per day. Of those - three quarters live in rural areas. For many the world's poor, at least 50-70% of their incomes go toward buying food, leaving little for health, education, and other basic needs such as shelter and clothing.

Credit: designed by Designer Hugo Ahlenius, (UNEP/GRID-Arendal) using World Development indicators (World Bank 2008)

#6:  Undernourishment
Unlike famine, undernourishment and malnourishment destroy slowly. Day in and day out, no headlines, just silent suffering and dying.

According to FAO undernourishment is defined as access to less than the minimum calories needed per day - avg. 1873/person

#7:  Living on marginal agriculture
Of the world’s 1.09 billion extremely poor people, about 74 % or 810 million live in marginal areas and rely on small-scale agriculture for their livelihood.

Source: Lennart Båge (IFAD president) in statement delivered on the Launch of the MDG 2005 Report http://www.ifad.org/events/mdg/ifad.htm

Global Nutrition Report
The visualization platform gives users a chance to understand how widespread malnutrition is and to assess how countries are progressing on a range of indicators. Starting today, we will be updating this page every day with new data and building the visualization platform to include more of the Report’s 84 indicators. Check back frequently for new materials posted here:
or: http://public.tableausoftware.com/shared/9DKSGJ3HN

#8:  Impact on children
In developing regions, 22% of children under-five were significantly underweight in 2007. This makes them more susceptible to many illnesses and reduces their ability to learn and function normally.

Source: FAO (2008) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008: High food prices and food security

#9:  No growth in food crop productivity
Small scale farming is critical to many people’s livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa, yet there has been little or no growth in food crop productivity over the past 30 years.

Source: ‘Agricultural Liberalisation in sub-Saharan Africa’. European Commission’s Poverty Reduction Effectiveness Programme (EC-PREP) Report, Imperial College London, by Andrew Dorward, Jonathan Kydd, Colin Poulton et al., November 2004

Chinese farmer plowing field#10:  Water and livestock
Water is a critical resource in many rural areas. With the growth of livestock production in even the poorest countries, it is worth noting the relationship between livestock and water. The majority of pastoralists graze their livestock on available forage and often (though certainly not always) efficiently and sustainably convert grasses and plants to meat. This provides an important balance to cropping systems and permits livelihoods in otherwise marginal areas that are unsuitable for crops i.e. the Sahel or Mongolian plains.

Intensive livestock operations are quite a different story. According to a leading US trade association, producing 1 pound of beef requires at least 5 pounds of grain and between 2,500 to 5,000 gallons of water. That figure may be lower in developing countries but is still likely to be considerable. Although the per person consumption of most meats has plateaued or declined in many Western countries, consumption is increasing along with incomes in many developing countries.

#11:  Countries at risk - poverty and agricultural dependence.
Economies at riskChanges in the environment, even minor drought and floods disrupt livelihoods and financial stability. These and conflicts dramatically affect the vulernability of rural populations. This is especially true when populations are poor and have few alternatives on which to rely. Dependence on agriculture signifies a high sensitivity to the environment not to mention natural disasters. This map shows the countries where agrilculture represents a large share of their economies and also countries with high levels of poverty..

Credit: designed by Designer Emmanuelle Bournay (UNEP/GRID-Arendal) using World Development indicators (World Bank 2004)

#12:  Will it be feasible to ever end hunger?
We can end hunger. Right now we have the financial and technical resources necessary to do it but not the political will.

The work of ending hunger is not really about feeding people.

People suffer chronic hunger and severe poverty because of social and political conditions that systematically deny them the ability to end their own hunger. Poor people (especially women) lack a say in decisions that affect their lives.

Charity and conventional aid hasn't worked and won't work because conventional thinking treats hungry people as the problem rather than the solution. They have creativity and skills and need the opportunity of an environment in which people are empowered to build lives of self-reliance.

The Hunger Project notes how an old saying: "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day – teach a man to fish and you feed him for life", just does not apply here. Hungry people often have generations of wisdom about "fishing" – the problem is the barbed wire around the lake.

#13:  Hunger is not simply about more production
Food supplies have increased by about 25% per person in the last 4 decades and real prices are about 40% lower. Just measuring commonly traded food products, the world produces and sells enough food to comfortably provide everyone on the planet with more than enough to eat (~3,000 calories per day whereas about 2000 per day is sufficient). Yet in 2006, about 860 million people are significantly undernourished. Clearly, the core issue is about access and not about more production.

Madurai kids from LupeFully 70-80% of the hungry live in rural areas and the UN Task Force on Hunger notes that most of them are smallholder farmers. Eroding natural resources and reduced productive capacity combined with inadequate purchasing power and little access to markets coalesce to keep hundreds of millions of people hungry and malnourished. Conflict, discrimination against females, and policies such as agro-industrial country subsidies contribute as well*.

*For example, a west African farmer can produce a pound of cotton for about US$0.45 while a US cotton farmer can produce it for about US$0.70 (most of the US cotton production is large-scale farming) but protection and subsidies prevent African farmers from accessing the US market except rarely through special programs. The EU similarly subsidizes and protects its agriculture.

Numbers supplied by: Task Force on Hunger, 2004: Halving hunger by 2015: A framework for action. Interim Report, Millennium Project. United Nations, New York.

#14: Hunger is complex
Increasing national incomes or production are not enough. Hunger and even famines occur in countries that produce surpluses and consider themselves food secure. Free trade and liberalization have helped to reduce food costs but are not enough to make a difference to most of the poorest who live on less than a dollar per day and often lack access to markets. In some cases, unmanaged trade allows heavily subsidized products to temporarily flood developing country markets and damage the livelihoods of local farmers. While urban consumers temporarily benefit from the subsequent low prices, rural people are eventually forced to abandon their livelihoods and sometimes migrate to crowded urban areas seeking hard-to-find employment.

How can development address these issues? We ought to be asking ourselves what approaches can serve to both secure local food needs and also contribute to market competitiveness? How can we reduce environmental degradation and ensure enough food in areas where remoteness, poverty, and resource degradation actually exacerbate risk and render conventional agricultural approaches useless? The answers are not simple yet they are being practiced in some places already.

#15:  World poverty distribution.
World poverty distribution by infant mortality ratesPoverty is responsible for most of the misery that results from very high rates of infant deaths in developing countries. In fact, infant mortality and poverty often correlate. The conditions that lead to these child deaths are most prevalent in rural areas where three-quarters of the world's poor people live and where basic services (healthcare, clean water, safe food) are unavailable. Their heavy reliance on natural resources such as soil, water, forests and fisheries for their subsistence and for commercial activities, is particularly dangerous in times of conflict or drought. Then circumstances can quickly hurl people into extreme poverty and higher rates of infant deaths in times of crises. This is especially likely when natural resources are not sustainably managed.

Credit: Map Design by Designer Hugo Ahlenius, (UNEP/GRID-Arendal) using Center for International Earth Science Information Network (Columbia University) 2005 data for global subnational infant mortality rates. Available at: http://www.ciesin.columbia.edu/povmap/ds_global.html (Accessed April, 2008)

Guahiro - Photo by Tai Power Seef#16:  Trade liberalization and hunger
Trade liberalization for agri-food products has been prescribed as a remedy to eliminate hunger by more efficiently allocating resources. In theory, quite plausible, however, it is now clear that trade liberalization has often undermined national food production by allowing imports of artificially cheap food. Liberalized trade is not the problem, it is the unfair competition accompanying it that is. Taxpayers in the OECD countries contribute about $1 billion/day, most goes to their large agribusinesses. These enormous agriculture subsidies, combined with recently liberalized or opened markets, enable large agricultural exporters to make poor countries their customers. The result is the eventual obliteration of local production and the creation for them of a worrying dependence on foreign sources. Thus, as many developing countries are forced to become importers, and fewer regions are capable of effective production, food security is undermined. But what about cheap food?

Well, this cheaper food does benefit low-income consumers in poor countries, but only temporarily, and at the cost of destroying the livelihoods of rural and fishing communities that do not have the enormous subsidies. So, some benefit while many lose. That is until inevitable natural cycles or man-made disasters alter the availability of cheap foreign food (this just happened in 2008) so then everybody loses (well, except the agribusiness conglomerates that control food exports and trade) as the situation destabilizes governments and dramatically increases hunger since much of the local food production capability is effectively no longer available in many poor countries.

The UN recognizes these problems in a recent report and further notes: “The most striking evidence of rural neglect has been a serious deterioration in the balance of agricultural trade. In the early 1960s, the developing countries had an overall annual agricultural trade surplus of almost $7 billion, but since the beginning of the 1990s they have generally been net importers of agricultural products, with a deficit in 2001, for example, of $11 billion.”

All quotes above from: ASIA-PACIFIC HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2006: Trade on Human Terms

#17:  A Brief Understanding of Hunger and its Resolution
Many of us have gone beyond relating to food as a primal need yet we do not know the facts of hunger. For example, famine is only the tip of the iceberg, and not only do aid and charity make only a modest impact but we actually produce enough food on the planet. One of the keys is local self-subsistence ... read more: Opens Link [TO "HUNGER" PAGE]

To Top of Page

Agriculture Trade Facts at a Glance

#1:  Steady Decline in Commodities
Agriculture represents nearly half of world exports of primary products. Many developing nations export primarily raw commodities. Despite recent jumps in short-term prices, the steady decline in the value of crops is causing hardship as governments and their people struggle with progressively less income. A new strategy is urgently needed that facilitates adding value to their exports by processing, packaging, unique products, new growing processes, i.e., organics, and more.

100 Years of Commodity Prices

#2: New Implications of agri-food trade for developing nations

Macro level
Today the US, Europe and Japan account for ¾ of global food imports and about 85% of these are generated by trade among themselves. In the coming decades the fastest growth by far in world food trade will occur in the emerging markets. However, many of the competitive requirements for supply chain efficiencies, financing, and standards will be similar to those of the industrialized markets. It is expected that today’s nearly US$4 trillion global food trade will increasingly shift toward other parts of Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, reaching about US$ 4.4 trillion by 2010 and US$6.4 trillion by 2020 *. To what extent will the industrialized nations and a few powerhouse developing nations continue to dominate this trade? What are the implications for local economies in developing and emerging markets and for food security in rural areas?
Fruit Colors by Tai Seef Powers
New Requirements
Competitive advantage based on traditional factors of production especially low costs is necessary but not sufficient. To be competitive now requires achieving considerable quality & safety levels. This applies not only to the final product but also of the processes used to create it (HACCP, EUREP-GAP, Organic, Social Accountability, etc.).

Trade is more dynamic than ever in history and market channels, their requirements and the opportunities are changing rapidly. Two of the critical questions that emerge are: How do producers acquire the necessary intelligence, business skills, and the investment capital to adapt? and How can supply chains serve both business and development needs?

Public role
Inadequate market infrastructure and the near total absence of public support systems (extension service, R&D, marketing, etc.) typically leave developing country producers to their own resources. There is a growing need for the public sector to establish new roles to help the private sector develop more equitable participation. Similarly, there are new opportunities for local institutions to be relevant.

Producer groups doing business
Given the challenges, single farmers are unlikely to have much market success without sufficient size, capitalization, management skills, and market intelligence. Private organizations or associations must take on more roles and need to be structured and fostered so as to be viable in the long run both in terms of serving their constituents and being agile in the market.

* Estimate includes internal trade as well as inter-country trade.

#3:  Geographical Indications (GIs) — even for small farmers and enterprises — are a unique and powerful form of competitive advantage. They foster high-quality traditions and are an expression local agro-ecological and cultural characteristics that often have considerable value.

Sometimes known as appelations, most are in developed nations: Scotch, Roquefort, Champagne, Parmigiano, Cognac, Feta, Kona, Vidalia, Port, Bourbon, etc. …Yet some of the greatest potential lies in developing nations. Already we have Ceylon tea, Pampas beef, Tequila, Basmati, Darjeeling, Blue Mountain, Tellicherry, Café de Colombia, and more…

GIs are not easy to achieve, take years and require partners and resources. Yet viable GIs are essentially building a brand and a reputation.

Distribution of Geographical Indications
♦ Nearly 10,000 protected GIs globally

♦ Developing countries all together, have less than 10% of these

♦ EU = 5,250 protected GIs

♦ US = 950 protected GIs
distribution of geographic indicators (GI's)

#4:  Agriculture and added value

Agriculture is an important part of the total value produced in poorer nations. In many, especially as they grow, the added value of processing and marketing represents an increasingly greater share.

Relative Value of Agriculture and Agribusiness

Sources for graph data: compiled from Jaffee for SSA; Quedraogo, Newman, Hyson for Morocco; Pryor and Holt for others. Because data compilation methodologies vary, the figures represented are not exact in their correlation across countries but are useful to indicate the relative orders of magnitude.

#5:  Adding value to agri-food trade

In the late 1990s UNCTAD estimated that developing country industries on the whole add $40 of value to each ton of agricultural raw material compared to $184 per ton added value in developed countries.


To Top of Page

"Poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Overcoming poverty is not a gesture charity. It is an act of justice." - Nelson Mandela

Top photo by Andy Fawks