Report warns food process a recipe for disaster in the Pacific

A new report from the NGO, World Vision, has found that food prices have been rising during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Pacific, it's triggering what the aid organisation is calling a "pandemic of child malnutrition".

Researchers found that food prices have gone up significantly in many Pacific countries, including by nearly a third in Vanuatu.

There is also evidence that one in five Pacific households have been eating cheaper meals, or skipping some altogether, because they can no longer afford a healthy diet.

To carry out the research, World Vision staff bought a basket of 10 basic food items, which included bananas, rice, flour, sugar, chicken, eggs, corn cobs, cooking oil, tomatoes and milk.

They then calculated how long it would take for an average worker to pay for those goods in each country.

Based on median income per capita, it would take someone in Australia one hour to afford the basket of basic food items that it would take a worker in Solomon Islands three days to earn.

World Vision's Head of Policy, Dane Moores, authored the report and said global food prices hit a ten year high during COVID-19, while incomes collapsed under lockdowns and restrictions.

"Healthy food is just out of reach for so many, it's simply unaffordable for thousands of vulnerable people in the region," he told Pacific Beat.

The Pacific region already has some of the highest rates of child stunting in the world, due to under nutrition, and there are real fears this will only get worse.

"We'll be seeing increasing child stunting rates in the Pacific, the warnings are clear and now's the time to act," he said.

The aid organisation is calling for a unified response to prioritise food security and protect food systems.

"We need governments, civil society, NGOs, the private sector and local communities to work together to improve the supply of nutritious food, the education around nutritious food and to ensure food is affordable," Mr Moores said.

"We need donor governments like Australia, as well as Pacific governments to make food security and malnutrition a priority".