Diets of poor hurt by rise in food prices: Oxfam

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2011 11:09 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Rising food prices, hovering near record highs after a spike in grain costs, are changing diets particularly in developing countries such as Kenya, according to a survey issued by charity Oxfam on Wednesday.

The majority of respondents in the survey, conducted in 17 countries, said their diet had changed over the last two years, with some blaming rising food prices but others health concerns.

"Our diets are changing fast and for too many people it is change for the worst," Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of the international charity said in a statement.

"Huge numbers of people, especially in the world's poorest countries, are cutting back on the quantity or quality of the food they eat because of rising food prices," he added.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization's index of global food prices hit a record high in February, driven partly by rising prices for grains.

Wheat prices have fallen back slightly since then but corn climbed to a new record high earlier this week.

The survey was conducted by GlobeScan while Oxfam conducted additional interviews with some poor communities, who can spend up to 80 percent of their income on food, to provide additional anecdotal evidence.

"I would like to eat rice but it is very expensive. the price of food keeps going up, like rice and meat. I would like to drink some milk but I can't buy it," Edson James Kamba of Malawi said.

Oxfam said others told the charity that they are either skipping meals or eating reduced quantities of food. Some were also eating cheaper products such as broken eggs and buying parts of a chicken they would not normally consume.

The charity called for more regulation of food commodity markets and reforms to "flawed" biofuels policies. Most biofuels are currently made from corn and sugar crops. G20 Agriculture Ministers are meeting in Paris on June 22-23. As G20 chair, France has called for a crackdown on speculation and greater transparency in commodity markets.

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; editing by Keiron Henderson)