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‘COUNTING THE BEANS’

Improving access to food a global concern, says MasterCard study

/ 05:02 AM October 23, 2017

For a simple meal of bean stew, an average New Yorker spends around $1.20, or a little over P60–just 0.6 percent of their daily income.

Relative to that New Yorker’s average daily income, Filipinos spend almost $10 (P500+), or almost 5 percent of their everyday earnings.

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These figures highlight the inequality between developed and developing countries when it comes to access to food, especially in conflict-torn nations, says a recently published study by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Mastercard titled “Counting the Beans: The True Cost of Food Around the World.”

With New York as the baseline, the study revealed that South Sudan scored the worst when it comes to the country’s purchasing power of food: there, a plate, relative to New York income, costs $321.70, which is equivalent to 155 percent of Sudanese average daily income.

In Nigeria, that’s equivalent to 121 percent of their average daily income; in Deir Ezzor, Syria, 115 percent; in Malawi, 45 percent; and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 40 percent.

For the study, a standard meal was put together, such as a stew made of beans paired with a carbohydrate component that matches each country’s local preference.

The cost of the ingredients for a single serving was calculated in the national currency of each country covered, and an average daily budget per person was estimated in the local currency, derived from national GDP per capita figures.

The meal-to-income ratio was calculated, providing the proportion of the daily budget spent to purchase one serving of the meal.

A theoretical price was then calculated by retrospectively applying the meal-to-income ratio for an individual in a developing country to the daily budget of a New York consumer.

The Philippines, at 4.5 percent, is doing better compared to a few other Asian countries. In Nepal, a plate of food takes up around 13 percent of their daily average income, while in Laos and Myanmar it’s equivalent to 8.8 and 7 percent, respectively.

“The research in ‘Counting the Beans’ is a stark reminder of how conflict can create cruel inequalities in terms of access to food,” says David Beasley, executive director of WFP.

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The study’s findings has further strengthened Mastercard and WFP’s partnership and commitment to their global initiative 100 Million Meals, which combines the former’s technological innovation and the latter’s expertise in providing food assistance to vulnerable communities.

According to Mastercard’s website, some of the programs under this initiative include the provision of prepaid cards for over two million Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, which allowed them to make their own food purchases in local stores; fundraising for the provision of over 17 million school meals to children worldwide; and relief efforts in countries such as the Philippines in 2013 and 2014, after Typhoons Yolanda and Ruby struck, respectively.

“Mastercard’s committed partnership has enabled us to dig deeper into what is behind these issues, and we have been able to present pioneering solutions that can offset some of the worst repercussions of the conflicts, disasters and food supply chain problems that lead to food insecurity,” Beasley says.

“Without food we cannot live, learn or grow,” adds Ann Cairns, president international of Mastercard. —ANNELLE TAYAO-JUEGO

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