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Millions Go Hungry– While Billions Worth of Food Go into Landfills

August 22, 2022
Inter Press Service

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22 2022 (IPS) - The ominous warnings keep coming non-stop: some of the world’s developing nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, are heading towards mass hunger and starvation.

The World Food Programme (WFP) warned last week that as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night while the number of those facing acute food insecurity has soared — from 135 million to 345 million — since 2019. A total of 50 million people in 45 countries are teetering on the edge of famine.

But in what seems like a cruel paradox the US Department of Agriculture estimates that a staggering $161 billion worth of food is dumped yearly into landfills in the United States.

The shortfall has been aggravated by reduced supplies of wheat and grain from Ukraine and Russia triggered by the ongoing conflict, plus the after-effects of the climate crisis, and the negative spillover from the three-year long Covid-19 pandemic.

While needs are sky-high, resources have hit rock bottom. The WFP says it requires $22.2 billion to reach 152 million people in 2022. However, with the global economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the gap between needs and funding is bigger than ever before.

“We are at a critical crossroads. To avert the hunger catastrophe the world is facing, everyone must step up alongside government donors, whose generous donations constitute the bulk of WFP’s funding. Private sector companies can support our work through technical assistance and knowledge transfers, as well as financial contributions. High net-worth individuals and ordinary citizens alike can all play a part, and youth, influencers and celebrities can raise their voices against the injustice of global hunger,” the Rome-based agency said.

In 2019, Russia and Ukraine together exported more than a quarter (25.4 percent) of the world’s wheat, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC).[…]

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute, told IPS that according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global food production and stocks are at historic high levels in 2022, with only a slight contraction compared to 2021.

“Skyrocketing food prices seen this year are rather due to speculation and profiteering than the war in Ukraine. It is outrageous that WFP has been forced to expand its food relief operations around the world due to speculation, while also having to raise more funds as the costs of providing food relief has increased everywhere”, he said.

Mousseau pointed out that WFP’s costs increased by $136 million in West Africa alone due to high food and fuel prices, whereas at the same time, the largest food corporations announced record profits totaling billions.

Louis Dreyfus and Bunge Ltd had respectively 82.5% and 15% jump in profits so far this year. Cargill had a 23% jump in its revenue. Profits of a handful of food corporations that dominate the global markets already exceed $10 billion this year – the equivalent of half of the $22 billion that WFP is seeking to address the food needs of 345 million people in 82 countries.[…]

IPS UN Bureau Report