Assessment of Changes in Food Consumption Based on Selected European and African Countries
Objective of the study
The objectives of the study are;
- To ascertain the pattern of food consumption in Africa
- To find out the pattern of consumption in Europe
- To ascertain the impact of income level on food consumption.
Changes in agricultural practice over the past years have increased the world’s capacity to provide food for its people through increases in productivity, greater diversity of foods and less seasonal dependence. Food availability has also increased as a consequence of rising income levels and falling food prices. This has resulted in considerable changes in food consumption over the past years. Along with an exploration of food consumption (availability) trends and projections to 2050, both globally and for different regions of the world, the drivers largely responsible for these observed consumption trends will be examined (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
There are many ways to look at food consumption, most of which prompt difficult and often complex conversations. Whether one resides in a developed or developing country, or in an economically affluent or impoverished household, food means family, culture and survival. Food is also heavily politicised and a global industry worth approximately USD 4.8 trillion yearly (World Bank, 2006). With such high cultural, political and economic connotations, it is not surprising that the role of sustainable food consumption remains largely unaddressed within the ongoing global dialogue on food security. This omission does not negate the fact, however, that food consumption patterns and trends have a direct and significant influence, in the short and longer terms, on food production patterns and overall food security. Often characterised as the stark contrast between over-consumption by the affluent and under consumption by the poor, consumption trends are much more complex than this with significant health, economic and environmental implications. For example, a universally-observed Nutrition Transition whereby a growing population, increasing urbanization and rising incomes result in a sharply increased demand for resource intensive foods is having considerable effects on our health as evidenced by climbing rates of obesity worldwide even in food insecure countries. The UN High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and others also observe that consumers’ increasingly resource intensive consumption patterns, in both developed and developing countries, have a major impact on global food price increases disproportionately affecting poor consumers who are increasingly more exposed to the price fluctuations of the international commodities markets (HLPE, 2011).
The world currently produces enough food for its citizens (FAO, 2011). However, food demand is only met in the aggregate, as there are profound disparities in access to food across geographic regions and across the spectrum of incomes at both the household and country levels. Despite considerable efforts to combat global hunger, 925 million people were undernourished in 2010 while the number of overweight and obese people, across the developed and developing worlds, rose to 1.5 billion in 2008 (FAO, 2012). The rise of this extreme discrepancy provides new and unique challenges to households and governments as they strive to provide sustainable dietary sustenance to citizens (WHO, 2011).
The study of trends in food consumption patterns is not new. In Blandford (1984), for OECD countries, and Wheelock and Frank (1989), for nine developed countries, a convergence of dietary patterns in European countries is suggested. Henson and Loader (1991 suggest that there are patterns in food consumption although these patterns are not entirely geographical. Grigg (1993) relates the convergence in food patterns to economic development and to concerns about health. Connor (1994) and Uhl (1991) compare food consumption patterns in the USA and Western Europe. Both show a convergence and Connor (1994) establishes that European per capita food consumption growth has been correlated with prior, but not contemporaneous, growth in the USA, so trends in the USA are good predictors of changes in Western Europe, particularly at more aggregate levels. In all these papers, there is no attempt to measure how this convergence process has taken place and if it only affects total calorie intake or extends to specific products. Herrmann and Róder (1995) provide a methodology to measure cross country differences in food consumption and reach similar results to those obtained in this study.
Economic theory suggests that the main determinants of changes in food consumption are variations in real consumer income and in the price of complementary or substitute goods. In the case of food, few other goods can be considered close substitutes. Thus, it is likely that the principal economic determinant of long-run changes in per capita food consumption is variation in real consumer income. Generally, a positive correlation between income and consumption is observed, so that countries with higher income levels have higher consumption levels. However, a minimum level of food consumption must be attained. Therefore, with low income levels, food consumption is relatively high and, as income grows, food consumption increases at a lower rate, up to a threshold which is difficult to surpass because of physical limitations (population is growing relatively slowly in EU countries), although it generally becomes more diversified.
On the other hand, other economists (see for instance Dercon and El Beyrouty, 2009) and analysts put less emphasis, if not in the development of the agriculture sector, in what they consider an excessive focus on food production in SSA. According to them, there is an important wedge between food production and food consumption that can be seen in the fact that many of the agricultural based countries fail to provide sufficient food and nutrition for their population. They criticize the main message of the World Development Report of 2008 that investing in agriculture is a necessary condition for any development. While the commodity price boom is an indication that further investment is needed in agriculture, this does necessarily imply that agriculture is the way forward for Africa. Although it is true that in the aggregate the world cannot import food and increases in production are badly needed, it is not necessarily true at the country level. Countries (particularly small ones) can import food without much effect on relative prices, and, according to these authors, historically food self-sufficiency and agricultural supremacy has never proved to be the defining feature of growth across the world
Based on this background the researcher wants to investigate assessment of changes in food consumption based on selected European and African countries.
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