KATHMANDU, Oct 23: Each Nepali spends 13 percent of their average daily income on a plate of food, the second highest among the countries surveyed in South Asia, according to a recent World Food Programme (WFP) report entitled Counting the Beans: The True Cost of a Plate of Food Around the World. The average annual income of a Nepali is US$ 682 or Rs 88,786.
“The precariousness of this supply route can cause the price of food to treble by the time it reaches villagers, making it hard for the poorest to afford a diverse diet. Many children do not receive all the nutrients they need, leading to stunting, which can affect physical and mental development and inhibit their future life chances,” said the report referring to rural areas that are not connected to the road network.
Each Indian or Filipino spends 4.5 percent of their daily average earning on a plate of food, while the citizens of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar spend 2.7 percent, 5.4 percent, 7.6 and 7 percent respectively, according to the new global index of WFP, a United Nations agency. The average relative cost of a plate of food against the daily income in Laos is 8.8 percent. New Yorkers spend only 0.6 percent.
The global index of relative cost of food is calculated based on the price of a plate of food in different parts of the world, and expressed as a percentage of average daily income. The report looked at the price of meal as perceived by those purchasing it.
Releasing the report, the WFP has said: “Unaffordability of food (as opposed to the mere absence of it) explains why hunger has historically proven so hard to beat.”
The WFP has also said that the cost of a meal demands a large proportion of daily earnings in countries such as Malawi (45 percent) and Democratic of Republic of Congo (40 percent), whereas it exceeds even the daily income in South Sudan (155 percent).
Despite the WFP figures, officials of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) have said that an average Nepali might be spending somewhere around 20 percent of their daily income on one meal because of high price of food ingredients.
“The 13-percent figure seems lower than the real spending, based our own experience of spending on food ingredients,” said Gyanendra Bajracharya, director of CBS. “Laborers’ wage has increased notably compared to the wage five years ago. This is because of a crunch of laborers in the local market, resulting from an outflow of migrant workers to Malaysia and the Middle East.”
Bajracharya argued that the growth in wages must have increased the pie of spending on food ingredients.
There are certain occupations where the labor cost has increased significantly in Nepal. The wage of a house-painter has increased the most, by 68 percent, according to Input Price Index of the construction sector published recently by the CBS.