Food security and the income gap

The income gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” must be taken into account when considering the issue of food security across Asia, according to a report to be published in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology.

Lily Kiminami, Professor in Regional, Rural and Development Economics in the Institute of Science and Technology, at Niigata University, Japan, explains that society at the regional, national and international level has a role to play in ensuring food security, that can cope with changes in food consumption, and be made sustainable in the light of climate change and in times of economic strife.

Until now, research on food policy has focused only on investigating the relationship between average income level and corresponding food demand at the national level. Research related to the impact of the income gap on food security in the face of economic changes has proved inadequate. As such, she and her colleagues have investigated the impact of economic growth on food consumption in Asia and taken into consideration the income gap.

Rice is the primary staple food across the majority of Asia, Kiminami points out. With only a few exceptions, most Asian countries show that the proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in grain agriculture is high while income per capita is low. Moreover, the large population densities also mean that the area of cultivated land per capita is also low. Where there are different social, economic and cultural conditions, in East Asia, for instance, it is apparent that rice consumption tends to decrease as income rises, with high-end products, such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, being eaten in preference to rice.

Such a localized socioeconomic shift would suggest that food security where all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a healthy and active life, is not necessarily attainable given an ever-increasing income gap.

In order to achieve sustainability and food security, Kiminami suggests that there must be a shift from purely efficient food production to efficient and sustainable. Such a shift would involve the implementation of redistribution systems, such as food assistance for the poor, and further improved food production policies that take into account the needs of the millions of people across Asia’s rapidly developing nations living below the poverty line.

“Food security and sustainability policy in Asia” in Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, 2009, 8, 318-333

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