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New Oxfam report debunks myths about the food crisis

8 September 2022

Food prices are rising around the world and hundreds of millions of people are going hungry today. At the same time, there is enough food to feed all the people on earth. A new Oxfam report debunks 10 myths about food and hunger, and shows that it is entirely possible to build a sustainable global system for food production and trade.

Idrissa Ouedraogo, farmer in South Africa. Photo: Cissé Amadou/Oxfam

Today, Oxfam is releasing the report "Fixing our Food - Debunking 10 myths about the global food system and what drives hunger" which highlights the major challenges the world needs to address to solve the global food crisis. It also shows that it is possible to build a sustainable global food production and trade system.

As acute hunger in the world grows, and more and more people are hit by rising food prices, several of the biggest food companies are making record profits. The situation in the world is acute - but it's not a lack of food that's the problem. The food that is produced is enough for everyone on earth to get enough calories a day for a healthy life.

"Oxfam is on the ground in over 90 countries, supporting people's struggle to feed themselves and their families. Every day we see how a broken food system, the ongoing climate crisis and growing inequality cause human suffering and lead to crises and conflicts. Food is an important security issue for low-income countries, but also for us here in Sweden."

Hanna Nelson, Head of Policy, Oxfam Sweden

The food crisis is hitting everyone, but the hardest hit are the most vulnerable, who live on smaller margins and are forced to spend an increasing share of their income on food. Already today, people in East Africa spend about 60% of their income on food, while the corresponding figure for us in Sweden is about 13%, and food inflation is increasing at an uneven pace around the world right now.

Oxfam's new report presents a series of proposals for a sustainable global food production and trade system, including:   

  • Invest in small-scale, local food production while strengthening sustainability and increasing inclusion in global trade. Well-functioning local food production is an effective way to reduce hunger and poverty and to increase resilience to crises in the world around us.   
  • International trade agreements and rules need to be renegotiated to create more fairness and flexibility for low-income countries, to allow for well-functioning local food systems. The war in Ukraine is the latest example that shows the vulnerability of global market trust. 
  • Take policy initiatives to keep food prices down, while guaranteeing social protection systems so that people don't go hungry when prices rise and distribution breaks down.  
  • Ensure that arable land is used for food production. At the same time as food prices are rising, more and more arable land is being used to grow food, which is then used for the unsustainable production of biofuels. Subsidies and tax breaks that encourage the conversion of agricultural production to fuel production should be phased out.   
  • Counter the extreme concentration of power in the food sector. Today, a few actors have great power and influence to influence decisions that determine access to food, such as what kind of food is produced, by whom and when, what it costs and, not least, who gets to eat it. For a fairer and more equitable trade in food, policy must regulate this. 
  • Regulate speculation on food. Price speculation in the food sector was part of the reason for the soaring food prices and the global food crisis we saw in 2007-2008 and 2011. Despite that experience, effective regulation of securities trading in the food sector is largely absent.

Food and hunger crisis: millions at risk of starvation

- In West Africa, the worst food crisis in a decade is underway, with 27 million people going hungry, a figure that is expected to rise to 38 million if no action is taken.

- In East Africa, where the drought is the worst in 70 years, a person is estimated to die of hunger every 48 seconds.

- In Yemen and Syria, countries torn apart by conflict, nearly 30 million people lack sufficient food.

- Across the globe, 193 million people are currently living in acute hunger, and the effects of the war in Ukraine are estimated to lead to a further 47 million people suffering from acute hunger.

- Almost everyone is affected by the food crisis, even in rich countries like Sweden, food prices are rising and the number of people going hungry is increasing. In the US, for example, the proportion of people who do not have enough to eat rose from 7.8% in August 2021 to 11.2% in April 2022.