By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
A special report by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) has warned that global hunger is set to spiral as the debt crisis bites
The report themed ‘BREAKING THE CYCLE OF UNSUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS, HUNGER, AND DEBT’ is jointly authored by IPES-Food Expert, Coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Ethiopia -Million Belay, Co-chair of IPES-Food, Senior Researcher at Third World Network [Malaysia/UK – en, May] Lim Li Ching and IPES-Food Expert, Economist, Vice Chair of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition [Canada – en] Jennifer Clapp.
The report states that “following a decade of steadily rising debt levels, public finances in low-income countries have been strained by the covid-19 pandemic and the economic disruptions ensuing from the Ukraine war – particularly sky-high import costs for food, fertilizer, and energy, and rapidly-rising interest rates, the world is on the brink of a devastating debt crisis, as 2023 begins”
“Although food prices have come down from spring 2022 peaks, debt servicing costs are projected to rise further this year and next, and the worst impacts are surely still to come” It states
It further adds that about 60% of low-income countries, and 30% of middle-income countries, are now considered at high risk of (or already in) debt distress. As debts spiral out of control and the world’s poorest countries struggle to meet the basic needs of their populations, today’s rapidly rising rates of hunger and poverty could soon become a tidal wave, reversing decades of progress, and sparking further instability and conflict.
The report further adds that the unsustainable debt accrued by low-income countries is typically blamed on economic mismanagement, corruption, and external shocks. But these factors do not tell the whole story and fail to acknowledge the bind many low-income countries are in.
“Although rarely acknowledged by policymakers, today’s unsustainable and inequitable global food systems are a key contributor to the debt crisis in the report.
IPES-FOOD identified four ways in which food systems are deepening today’s debt crisis, these are Import dependencies and dollar dependencies, Extractive financial flows, Boom-bust cycles, corporate consolidation; and Climate breakdown.
It further showed how unsustainable debt leaves countries critically exposed to shocks and undermines their ability to invest in climate-resilient food production and food security. The result of this vicious cycle is rising hunger and poverty in the world’s poorest countries.
In the concluding section, the report argued that comprehensive debt relief must go hand-in-hand with food system transformation, to build a basis for sustainable public finances in low-income countries and durable progress in the fight against hunger and poverty.