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Opinion
David Fickling

To Tackle Hunger, We Need to Fix Food Subsidies

Governments’ own spending is exacerbating the problem, with billions of dollars wasted on people in wealthy countries who are the least at risk of malnutrition.

Where to begin unpicking this mess?

Where to begin unpicking this mess?

Photographer: Sima Diab/Bloomberg

If you want an image of subsidized food in the world, you might think of Egypt, where the price of flatbread is fixed and more than half the population lives on loaves costing just 0.05 Egyptian pounds (0.25 cents) thanks to heavy government support.

Alms for the needy are one of the oldest forms of charity. The tradition persists to this day, in the form of food stamps in the US, food banks in the UK, free school meals in Japan, direct subsidy programs like Egypt’s, and India’s price controls on farm produce. On top of that are exemptions from sales taxes for essential ingredients in many countries. With nearly 800 million people — about a 10th of the world’s population — unable to feed themselves adequately last year, you might expect this form of welfare to be growing in size and significance.