UK food prices among the highest in Europe

Posted by Lucy Brinicombe Senior Press Officer

15th Jan 2014

New global food index compares 125 countries to reveal the best and worst places to eat healthily


People in the UK are facing among the highest and most volatile food prices in Western Europe, according to a new global food database released by Oxfam today.


The Good Enough to Eat index is the first of its kind, comparing data from 125 countries to create a global snapshot of the different challenges people face in getting the food they need to eat. The index comes at a time when one in eight people in the world go hungry despite there being enough to feed everyone, and highlights how distribution and prices are important factors. It brings together data on whether people have enough to eat, can afford to eat, the quality of food and the health outcomes of people's diet.


Overall The Netherlands, followed by France and Switzerland in joint second are the best places for people to eat in the index, while Chad is the worst followed by Angola and Ethiopia, also in joint second place.


Hairy Biker chef Dave Myers has just returned from Cambodia, which is positioned 88th overall, to see Oxfam's projects to help boost food security. 


He said: "It's terrible to think that so many people go hungry in a world that produces more than enough. I have seen how Oxfam is bringing simple solutions to Cambodia to help farmers double rice production and make more from what they grow. All of this can change lives for good but a concerted global effort is needed if we are to end the shame of hunger which is clearly affecting people everywhere - even in the UK."


The UK is among the worst performers in Western Europe on whether citizens can afford to eat, sharing 20th position with Cyprus, and with only Austrians and Icelanders fairing worse.


At a time of austerity and with more than half a million people using food banks, the index reveals how people in the UK face higher prices for food compared to other goods than almost everyone in Western Europe. Only Austrians and Italians face the same level of pressure while Cypriots have to pay more. The UK also ranked in the bottom half of all OECD countries on food price volatility.


This record on food prices means that the UK's combined score puts it in 13th position - falling short of making the top dozen (best 10 per cent). Instead, The Netherlands, France and Switzerland are joined by Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Austria, Australia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Italy and Ireland.  All enjoy top marks for their lack of malnutrition and undernourishment and for access to safe water, while other measures, including obesity, have lowered their final results.


At the bottom of the table, one in three children are underweight in Chad, where food is relatively more expensive than anywhere else, apart from Guinea and Gambia. Chad shares fourth worst position on the quality of food consumed. 


Oxfam's Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: "This index lays bare some of the challenges that people face in getting the food they need - regardless of where they come from. It reveals how the world is failing to ensure that everyone is able to eat healthily, despite there being enough to go around.


"The UK's failure to make the top table is a shocking indictment for the world's sixth richest country. With a record number of people turning to food banks, the government must carry out an urgent inquiry into how welfare changes and cuts are exacerbating food poverty and deepening inequality."


Oxfam is working worldwide to provide long-term solutions that will help people grow enough food to eat and make a living. In Chad, for example, Oxfam is helping farmers grow and diversify more crops, providing veterinary training to help ensure cattle are stronger and are helping to build more food storage, so that people are better prepared with the next drought conditions. 


The Good Enough to Eat index follows the launch of Oxfam's new fundraising campaign Lift Lives for Good, which aims to show how simple solutions on the ground can bring lasting change to individuals and in turn their communities and beyond. The campaign is also calling for action on two major challenges that can exacerbate food poverty - inequality and climate change. 


Oxfam is calling for action in the UK to address growing inequality and the underlying challenges that people are increasingly facing such as unemployment, low wages and rising food and fuel prices. It wants an urgent government inquiry into the affect welfare changes and cuts are having. 


Globally, Oxfam is campaigning for urgent action on climate change which presents a significant threat to food security, as well as investment in small-holder agriculture and infrastructure to boost crop production, prevent waste and improve access to markets. It also wants an end to biofuels targets, which are diverting food from mouths to fuel tanks, action to tackle climate change, better regulation of food commodities markets to prevent food price hikes and improved land rights so people do not lose the land they rely on to grow food.


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The Good Enough to Eat index, which includes the raw figures, an online graphic of the data and a media brief is available. For this, more information or to arrange interviews contact Lucy Brinicombe, 077886 110054 / lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk


Notes to Editors



http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/good-enough-to-eat

The Good Enough to Eat index looks at four core concerns for consumers around the world, using two measures to help assess the challenges:

1. Do people have enough to eat? - Measured by levels of undernourishment and underweight children
2. Can people afford to eat? - Measured by food price levels compared to other goods and services and food price volatility
3. Is food of good quality? - Measured by diet diversification and access to clean and safe water
4. What are the health outcomes of people's diet? - Measured by diabetes and obesity.


Eight established global data sources were identified that capture aspects of the food market relevant for this index. All figures are the most recently available global data sources from internationally recognised organisations - The Food and Agriculture Organisation, The World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation. To create a globally comparable index, the sources have global coverage, scoring between 134 and 200 countries and territories. 

Each of the sources used different scales in measuring the countries, requiring a process to standardise them so that they could be compared. The standard MIN / MAX rescaling method was used, generating re-scaled values of 0-100 where 0 points is the minimum score (best) and 100 points is the maximum score (worst). The process is based on identifying the countries with the minimum and maximum scores in the original data, scoring them 0 and 100 respectively and then measuring how far every other country is from these maximum and minimum values. 

All countries with data for each measure were included in the re-scaling process to ensure that the final result was a globally comparable one. However, only the countries that had data for all eight measures were included in the final index, with one exception. For most developed countries, there is no data available for the underweight children measure. For those countries that achieved the minimum score for the undernourishment measure they were assumed to also be amongst the best in the world for measures for underweight children. The Good Enough to Eat database therefore includes 125 countries. That some of the measures do not include minimum or maximum scores illustrates that there are countries that are better or worse but are not included in the index because they do not have data available for the other measures. Raw data of all countries is available.

Good Enough to Eat Table - the best and worst

Core Questions and Measures Best Country Worst Country:

Good Enough to Eat (Combined Scores) The Netherlands (6) Chad (50)

1.Enough to Eat Multiple countries (28 score 0) Burundi (89)

Undernourishment Multiple (62 countries score 0) Burundi (100)

Underweight Children Multiple (28 countries score 0) India (96)

2.Afford to Eat USA (6) Angola (90)

Food Price Level (relative to other goods and services) The Netherlands (6) Guinea (100)

Food Price Inflation Volatility Japan, Canada and the US (1) Angola and Zimbabwe (100)^

3.Food Quality Iceland (0) Madagascar (86)

Diet Diversification Iceland (0) Bangladesh and Lesotho (98)

Access to Clean and Safe Water Multiple (32 countries score 0) Mozambique (75)

4.Unhealthy Eating Cambodia (1) Saudi Arabia (54)

Diabetes Cambodia (0) Saudi Arabia (61)

Obesity Bangladesh, Nepal and Ethiopia (0) Kuwait (58)


Table with details relevant to the press release

Ranking Country Total points Other relevant points

1 The Netherlands 6
2 France and Switzerland 8
4 Belgium 10
4 Sweden 10
4 Denmark 10
4 Austria 10 Afford to Eat 16
Food prices related to other goods 21
8 Luxembourg 11
8 Italy 11 Food prices related to other goods 21
8 Australia 11
8 Portugal 11
8 Ireland 11
13 UK 12 Afford to Eat 14
Food prices related to other goods 21
13 Cyprus 12 Afford to Eat 14
Food prices related to other goods 24
13 Iceland 12 Afford to Eat 19
21 US 13
88 Cambodia 31
100 Gambia 36 Food prices related to other goods 97
112 Guinea 40 Food prices related to other goods 100
123 Angola 49
123 Ethiopia 49
125 Chad 50 Food prices related to other goods 94


Sources used:
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO): www.fao.org/economic/ess/essfs/ess-fadata/en
World Health Organisation: www.fao.org/economic/ess/essfs/ess-fadata/en and http://apps.who.int/gho/data/view.main
International Labour Organisation (ILO): http://laborsta.ilo.org/STP/guest



Oxfam is calling on UK public support - however small - to help it lift lives for good. To donate £4 text LIFT to 70064 or click here for more information: www.oxfam.org.uk/lift. 

Lift Lives For Good aims to inspire the UK public about what their support for Oxfam can achieve. A lift can empower people to make change, helping them to alter the course of their lives, so in turn they can lift others around them, setting in motion a process of change that spreads throughout their community. So by supporting Oxfam people are not just lifting one person, they're lifting the lives of entire communities - now and for good.

Blog post written by Lucy Brinicombe

Senior Press Officer

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