Agrifood Economics


Ensuring economic access to healthy diets during times of crisis
FAO Agricultural Development Economics Policy Brief 43
Publication date

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. In 2019, nearly 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet that protects against malnutrition in all its forms. While low-income countries are the ones most unlikely to be able to afford it, middle-income countries are also at risk. Indeed, on top of the 3 billion people who cannot afford a healthy diet, an additional 1 billion people are at risk of not being able to afford it if a shock reduces their incomes by one-third. The burden of this additional challenge would fall mostly on lower- and upper-middle-income countries. Pathways to address accessibility issues will thus differ by countries’ challenges: low-income countries in dire need of improving the affordability of healthy diets should focus on adopting long-term approaches that improve income levels and lower the cost of nutritious foods. In middle-income countries with many at risk, building resilience through the stabilization of incomes and diversification of agrifood systems should be the focus instead. Social protection programmes can also be effective policy tools during times of crisis but should be designed with the key challenges in mind.

The findings in this brief have been adapted from the FAO report The State of Food and Agriculture 2021. Making agrifood systems more resilient to shocks and stresses.