Back to Website

Global food crisis:
More go hungry amid economic turmoil

The Guatemalan Congress votes in favour of a legal reform proposed by the International Commission Against Impunity. The Commission has proposed reforms including changes to the law on immunity and to laws on criminal procedures and organized crime. 2008. Photo/CICIG
Who pays the cost of hunger? As food prices rise, many of us can
give up desserts or meat once or twice a week to save money.
For people making less than US$ 1 a day, the choice is much harder.
2008. World Food Programme

Skyrocketing food prices sparked riots in more than 40 countries and grabbed headlines in the first half of 2008. While media coverage of the world’s food crisis has since been overshadowed by international alarm over the global financial crisis, the access of poor people to food is worsening. Growing numbers of people are falling into the ranks of the hungry as the economic downturn closes factories, bankrupts companies and shrinks household incomes. At the same time, domestic food prices are still higher than they were before the world food crisis, exacerbating the problems of declining income and employment.

The Story

Volatile prices and the global financial crisis, coupled with the dramatic decline in agricultural investment over the past 30 years, have sharply reduced food security in many developing countries. While international food prices have fallen from peak levels of 2008, prices in many developing countries remain high, at record levels in some cases. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates a record one billion people – or one-sixth of the world’s population – now go to bed hungry, without sufficient calories to live a healthy life.

“A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown, combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries, has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty,” says FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

Based on current trends, international targets to cut world hunger and poverty in half by 2015 appear increasingly out of reach. FAO has called for a broad international effort to eradicate world hunger, warning the “silent hunger crisis” is posing a grave threat to world peace and security.

With more than 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050, significant improvements in agricultural production and increasing food access in developing countries will be ever more critical. The global financial crisis has prompted fears that efforts to raise much needed investments in agriculture will be set back further. Already the share of total official development assistance (ODA) for agriculture has tumbled from 17 percent in 1980 to just 3.8 percent in 2006.

About 75 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. To increase production, smallholder farmers must have greater access to credit, seeds, fertilizers and secure land tenure. FAO estimates that the countries hardest hit by the food crisis, most of them in Africa, will need at least US$ 30 billion annually to ensure food security and revive long-neglected agricultural systems.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the international community to urgently address the food crisis in developing countries – both through short-term emergency measures to meet critical needs and longer-term investments to promote food production and agricultural development.


The Context



Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
Erwin Northoff, Media Relations
FAO Rome, Italy
Tel: +39 06 5705 3105

Teresa Buerkle, Information Officer
FAO Liaison Office for North America
Tel: +1 202 653 0011

World Food Programme (WFP):
Greg Barrow, Global Media Coordinator
Communications and Public Policy
WFP Rome, Italy
Tel: +39 06 6513 2330



Secretary-General’s Task Force on the Global Food Crisis

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Global Information and Early Warning System

State of Food Insecurity in the World

National Basic Food Price data and analysis tool

Crop Prospects and Food Situation report

Food Outlook report

World Food Programme (WFP)

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

UN News Centre