New research by the British charity Save the Children, shows that if a Bangladeshi family wanted to eat a simple nutritious diet, they would have to spend three times their salary on food.
According to official estimates reported by The Independent, this would amount to a 1,700 pound bill at the supermarket each week.
AdvertisementThe research calculated how much a healthy diet, based on local produce and allowing for seasonal factors such as flooding or lean seasons, would cost in four impoverished countries and then worked it out as a proportion of the average national income. The ratios were multiplied by the average British income to cast it in terms with which British consumers could identify.
"What's new here is that for the first time we are quantifying the gap between income and having a good diet," said Costanza de Toma, Save the Children's hunger advocacy adviser.
The results explode the myth that low incomes are enough to survive on in the developing world because things are cheaper, and transform the standard "dollar a day" poverty formula into mathematics that hits home.
Save the Children also looked at Ethiopia, where families need the equivalent of 677 pounds a week to feed themselves; Tanzania where it's 593 pounds and Burma where people need 584 pounds.
Researchers found that in Bangladesh, almost eight in 10 of the poorest families in the village under study could not afford the lowest nutritional diet, put together from local foodstuffs like rice and lentils.
While the current situation is bleak, the future could be much worse as agricultural commodity prices surge around the world. Cereal prices are at a 10-year high, a combination of poor harvests in some climate-affected countries and the switch to growing crops for biofuels in others. And rice prices have been steadily creeping upwards too.
A joint report from the UN and the OECD yesterday warned that high commodities prices could last over the next decade, predicting grains would rise by as much as 50 per cent between now and 2016.