Rising food prices changing what we eat

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians on average spend less than 10 per cent of their income on food, but in developing countries, the poor can spend up to 80 per cent of their income on food.

June 15, 2011

People around the world are changing what they eat because of the rising cost of food, according to a new global survey released today as part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign. Rising food prices is top of the agenda for G20 agriculture ministers meeting in France next week. 

“The rising cost of food is pushing more people into hunger, with women and girls representing most of the word’s hungry,” said Robert Fox, Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director. “When the G20 agriculture ministers meet next week they must act to fix our broken food system.”

The public opinion poll, by international research consultancy GlobeScan, was conducted in 17 countries: Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, UK and the USA. Canada was not included in the GlobeScan survey.

A poll conducted by EKOS Research for Oxfam Canada in May 2011 shows two thirds of Canadians are extremely concerned about rising food prices.  A June 2011 poll, also conducted by EKOS, shows that 70 per cent of Canadians agree that the global food system is broken (summary of findings here).

In the GlobeScan poll, 54 per cent of overall respondents and a majority of people in most countries surveyed said they are not eating the same food as they did two years ago - before the current food price crisis began. Thirty-nine per cent of those who said their diet had changed blamed the rising price of food and 33 per cent cited health reasons. 

In Kenya, for example, a staggering 76 per cent of respondents said they have changed their diet with 79 per cent blaming the price of food. In Canada, according to the EKOS poll,17 per cent of respondents who said they changed their diet did so because of the rising price of food and among women between 34 and 55 years old that number rose to 27 per cent.

Oliver Martin, Research Director of GlobeScan said: “The consequences of the world-wide rise in food prices are very apparent in these survey results. The cost of food is by some distance the dominant concern that people have about what they and their family eat.”

Cost was also by far the biggest food worry with 66 per cent of people globally citing it as one of their top concerns. Forty-three per cent said healthiness or nutritional value was also a key food concern. In poorer countries the availability of food was much more of an issue with 57 per cent of people in Kenya and 45 per cent in Tanzania citing it as one of their biggest food worries.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians on average spend less than 10 per cent of their income on food, but in developing countries, the poor can spend up to 80 per cent of their income on food. 

Oxfam is calling on the G20 ministers to regulate commodity markets and reform flawed biofuels policies to keep food prices in check.

Additional interviews conducted by Oxfam provide further evidence that many people in developing countries are either eating less food, eating cheaper items or enjoying less diversity in their diets as a result of rising food prices. Women tend to be disproportionately affected by rising food prices because they are responsible for feeding their families. 

Glenda Marisela Galindo Castro, a 22-year-old shop assistant from Guatemala said: “Oil which used to cost 5 quetzals for half a litre now costs eight. I’m the only one who works and the wages I earn are not enough to cover my families’ needs.” 

For more information contact:
Katia Gianneschi
katia.gianneschi@oxfam.ca

 

Notes to editors

1. Attached you’ll find results from EKOS polls.

2. The GlobeScan poll involved interviews with 16,421 citizens in 17 countries, conducted online, by telephone, and by face-to-face between April 6 and May 6, 2011. The majority of the countries were surveyed online, while a few participated through telephone or face-to-face interviews. Online samples were structured to be representative of the online population in the country in question.  In some countries this profile will differ from the national population profile due to lower levels of internet connectivity.  Results of this research are considered accurate to within 2.1 to 4.4 per cent (depending on the country) of the true incidence in the population in question, 19 times out of 20 in each of the 17 countries.

 

Breakdown of GlobeScan Opinion Poll Findings on Changing Diets
(all figures are percentages)

Country

Percentage of people who are no longer eating the same foods they did two years ago

Percentage of people who have changed their diet because of rising food prices

Percentage of people who have changed their diet because of health concerns

Global

53

39

33

Kenya

75

79

4

South Africa

69

37

47

Mexico

65

54

26

Guatemala

61

48

26

Australia

62

39

36

India

56

13

59

Pakistan

57

44

32

Russia

57

31

12

USA

55

31

49

Brazil

55

34

31

Tanzania

47

49

21

Spain

46

45

29

UK

46

41

36

Ghana

42

32

38

Philippines

42

26

56

Germany

37

25

32

Netherlands

36

30

18