IDB research shows food crisis could deepen poverty in 19 countries

Latin American and Caribbean countries should strengthen social programs to alleviate the impact of higher food prices among 71 million poor people in the region, newly released numbers on the potential impact of food prices by Inter-American Development Bank show.  More than 26 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean could fall into extreme poverty if food prices remain high, according to the IDB.

The number of poor people in Chile, for example, would increase from 12.3 percent of the total population to 17.2, net of positive impacts from rising commodity export prices. Mexico’s poor would rise by a third to 27.5 percent of the total population from 20.6 percent, and Costa Rica and El Salvador would also register a significant increase in poverty.

Low-income families may be pushed deeper into poverty if high prices for commodities such as wheat, rice and soybeans remain persistently high and countries fail to boost agricultural output and income to the poor, according to IDB data, which estimated the impact of the crisis in 19 countries in the region.

Central American and Caribbean countries that import large quantities of food face the greatest risk of deepening poverty. For instance, Haiti would need to transfer 12 percent of its gross domestic product to the poor so they may maintain their pre-crisis levels of consumption; Peru would need to transfer 4.4 percent of its GDP and Nicaragua 3.7 percent, the IDB numbers show.

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