Study Finds Despite Modest Improvements a Significant Number of People Face Food Insecurity in the Region

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados –  A new study has found that despite modest improvements last year, food insecurity in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean remains persistently higher than pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, driven by the cost-of-living crisis, global economic volatility and the lingering impacts of the pandemic.

sidbanThe Caribbean Food Security and Livelihoods Survey, carried out jointly by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) found that 43 per cent of the population, or three million people , are estimated to be food insecure in 22 countries and territories.

The survey found that these Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continue to grapple with high costs of food and inputs for productive sectors.

It found that 96 per cent of those surveyed reported rising food prices over the past three months. With a high dependence on imported goods, coupled with limited economies of scale, the unique challenges of Caribbean SIDS mean that much of the population continues to struggle to afford a healthy diet.

With a highly active Atlantic hurricane season forecast  schedule to begin on June 1, the threat of natural hazards on food security looms large for those living the region.

The survey found that more than a third of those questioned reported having been affected in the last 12 months, mainly by heatwaves, floods, drought and tropical storms, further eroding  their capacity to cope with yet another shock.

These climate shocks, combined with the lingering socio-economic impact of the pandemic, combined with the ripple effect of the crisis in Ukraine, have created major challenges for people and their livelihoods.

“In the face of persistent food insecurity, impactful investments in agriculture, finance, and social protection are urgently needed. Robust investments in disaster management are critical to fostering resilient food systems. Every individual in this region deserves consistent access to nutritious and affordable food for their families,” said Regis Chapman, Representative and Country Director of WFP’s Caribbean Multi-Country Office.

While levels of food insecurity have declined over the last two years, from 4.1 million in 2022 to three million in 2024, the overall picture remains deeply concerning.

The 41-page report noted that those involved in productive sectors, farming and fishing, continue to bear the brunt of inflation. Livestock farmers reported increased feed prices and higher prices for tools and machinery and nearly 80 per cent of the people surveyed engaged in fishing activities were affected by the rising cost of fuel for their operations.

“Continued investment in our regional food systems as SIDS is critical if we are to transform the regional food security position into one that creates equitable wealth and economic prosperity.

“The collective efforts of the region must address food production, distribution, food transportation, movement of capital, reform of sanitary and phytosanitary challenges, improving the use of technology and promoting investment has to position the region to becoming more food secure,” said Joseph Cox, the Assistant Secretary General for Economic Integration, Innovation and Development at the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat.

As world leaders prepare to meet at the fourth International Conference on SIDS in Antigua and Barbuda next week, CARICOM and WFP said the survey presents key data for a region that continues to call for greater equitable access to resources to achieve development goals. “Overall, the survey’s findings indicate that there is hope for the region and highlights the need for greater international support to accelerate progress on Zero Hunger and help build pathways towards sustainable food systems. “