The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) released a special report sounding the alarm on global food insecurity and debt crises. The report finds that 349 million people are facing acute starvation and many more will experience hunger with food prices remaining at historic highs and countries failing to meet debt repayments.

In “Breaking the Cycle of Unsustainable Food Systems, Hunger, and Debt,” IPES-Food reports that the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine contributed to rising food prices in the last two years.

“Although there has been some easing of food prices in recent months, it is unpredictable what the fallout from the interplay with the debt crisis will be,” Jennifer Clapp, Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo, Ontario and co-author of the report, tells Food Tank. “But we are seeing food price inflation remaining higher than overall inflation, and this is deeply troubling.”

And now authors state that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are threatened by a worsening debt crisis. IPES-Food finds 60 percent of low-income countries and 30 percent of middle-income countries are at high risk of defaulting on their debt. According to the report, Zambia, Sri Lanka, and Suriname defaulted already. Meanwhile, countries including Ghana and Pakistan are at risk of doing so.

The report highlights four critical ways that unsustainable food systems deepen the debt crisis for dozens of LMICs. These nations face import dependencies for food and fertilizers, which forces them to rely on cash crops to repay debts and prevents them from diversifying crops. Additionally, decades of divestment from social services and domestic agricultural production have further exacerbated the challenges. As food prices spike and crash, farmers find themselves unable to compete with large corporations. And the worsening climate crisis is increasing uncertainty, destroying harvests and deepening farmer debt.

Read the full article about debt and global hunger by Max Sano at Food Tank.