Wendy’s menu runs short as virus hits U.S. beef supplies

(Reuters) – Wendy’s Co said on Tuesday its restaurants may face a shortage of many menu items, including hamburgers, as beef processors in the United States struggle to keep their plants open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. meat manufacturers, including Tyson Foods Inc, have signaled disruptions to food supply as they are forced to shut many meat plants to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges. Because of this, some of our menu items may be in short supply from time to time at some restaurants in this current environment,” a Wendy’s spokesperson said.

The burger chain, known for its fresh-never-frozen patties, said it would continue to supply hamburgers to all of its restaurants, with deliveries two or three times a week.

Just before the virus outbreak in the United States, Wendy’s launched a new breakfast menu that included sausages, eggs, croissants, and a hamburger variation in the hopes of attracting more footfall in the morning, a crucial daypart for restaurateurs.

The pandemic has also led to rival McDonald’s Corp trimming its menu to serve drive-thru and delivery customers faster, while its dine-in operations remain shut. Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski last week told analysts that the company has had no break in supply till date.

Several retailers including Kroger Co and Costco Wholesale Corp have also limited meat purchases per customers.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

Ocean could provide over six times more food than it does today

A worker carries lemuru fish as he walks at Kelan Beach in Badung, Bali resort island in this December 12, 2014 photo taken by Antara Foto. The unstable weather conditions and high waves in the Strait of Bali makes it difficult for fishermen to catch fish. Picture taken December 12, 2014. REUTERS/Antara Foto/Yusuf Fikri (INDONESIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. INDONESIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN INDONESIA

By Emma Batha

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The ocean could provide over six times more food than it does now with better management and more technological innovation, scientists said on Tuesday, adding that boosting cultivation of bivalves like mussels and clams could be especially beneficial.

They estimated the oceans could provide more than two thirds of the animal protein that U.N. food experts predict will be needed to feed the world in future. Fish currently accounts for about a fifth of animal protein consumed by humans.

Cultivating food from the ocean generally has a lower impact on the climate than land-based agriculture, and is not limited by the same land and water constraints, the scientists said.

Food from the seas is also highly nutritious, containing essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, they said in a report to be released at a symposium on fisheries hosted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome on Tuesday.

“The ocean has great, untapped potential to help feed the world in the coming decades, and this resource can be realised with a lower environmental footprint than many other food sources,” said lead author Christopher Costello.

“If we make rapid and far-reaching changes in the way we manage ocean-based industries while nurturing the health of its ecosystems, we can bolster our long-term food security and the livelihoods of millions of people.”

The report comes at a time of rising concern about over-fishing caused by a combination of factors including illegal fishing, fishing subsidies, the use of the wrong fishing gear and environmental degradation which is damaging nursery grounds.

With reforms, the scientists said the fishing industry could boost catches by 20% compared to today, and by up to 40% compared to projected future catches.

But they suggested the greatest potential gains lay in expanding the cultivation of bivalves like mussels, scallops and clams, which feed off organic matter in their environment.

This could also help improve water quality and create habitats for wild fisheries.

The scientists also called for more research into the potential of seaweed as a food source, especially as a replacement for fish-based ingredients in animal feed.

Studies suggest that certain seaweeds may reduce methane emissions from livestock which are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The report has been produced for an initiative spearheaded by 14 government heads called the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which aims to push the ocean to the top of global agendas.

(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Millions stranded in India as early monsoon downpours bring flood havoc

A woman displaced by the recent flood sleeps inside a classroom of Shree Sarsawati Higher Secondary School at Bhalohiya village in Rautahat, Nepal, July 17, 2019. REUTERS/Riwaj Rai

By Zarir Hussain

GUWAHATI, INDIA (Reuters) – Millions of people are stranded by flooding in northeast India with concern growing about food and water supplies even though the impact of heavy, early monsoon rain appeared to be easing, the government said on Wednesday.

More than 4.7 million people have been displaced in the tea-growing state of Assam, with many thousands making do with only the most meagre food supplies and dirty water.

“We’ve just been surviving on boiled rice for almost seven days now,” said Anamika Das, a mother at Amtola relief camp in Assam’s Lakhimpur district.

She said she was having difficulty breastfeeding her baby boy.

A man uses a makeshift raft to move his paddy to a safer place in a flooded area in Morigaon district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, July 16, 2019. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

A man uses a makeshift raft to move his paddy to a safer place in a flooded area in Morigaon district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, July 16, 2019. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

Assam has been the worst-affected part of India. Floods have also hit neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh.

At least 153 people have been killed in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Parts of Pakistan have also seen flooding.

Subhas Bania, also sheltering at Amtola, said authorities had made no provision for the supply of drinking water.

“We’ve been forced to drink muddy water,” he said.

The rains in north India usually last from early June to October, with the worst of the flooding usually later in the season.

Assam is frequently swamped by floods when the Brahmaputra river, which flows down from the Himalayas through northeast India and Bangladesh, sweeps over its banks.

Water levels on the river and its major tributaries were beginning to fall, although they were still above the danger mark, the government said.

“We’re trying our best to reach out to the affected people in whatever way possible but yes, the situation is indeed very bad,” said Assam’s Social Welfare Minister Pramila Rani Brahma.

The government has yet to assess the impact of the floods that have battered thousands of settlements.

Bhabani Das, a village elder in Golaghat district, who has been living under a plastic sheet for four days, said the flood had swept away her home.

“Where do we go from here?”

In the state of Bihar, which has also been hit by severe flooding, beginning last week, officials said that floodwaters were beginning to recede after killing 33 people.

“Things are gradually becoming normal, people are returning home,” Bihar’s Disaster Management Minister Lakshmeshwar Roy said.

Water levels in four rivers in Bangladesh, including the Brahmaputra, were above the danger mark, with some northern parts of the low-lying country flooded.

Road and railway links between the capital city of Dhaka and at least 16 northern and northwest districts had been severed, officials said.

(Reporting Zarir Hussain in GUWAHATI, Jatindra Dash in BHUBANESWAR, Serajul Quadir in DHAKA; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

Fake meat from soy bean oil, free markets ease North Koreans’ hunger

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as children eat during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphanage on International Children's Day in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang

By James Pearson and Seung-Woo Yeom

SEOUL (Reuters) – Take the dregs left from making soy bean oil, which usually go to feed the pigs. Press and roll them into a sandy-colored paste. Stuff with rice, and top with chilli sauce. The dish’s name, injogogi, means “man-made meat.”

In North Korea for years it was a recipe for survival. Today it is a popular street food, traded alongside other goods and services on informal markets, known as jangmadang. Defectors say there are hundreds of these markets. The creation and informal trade of injogogi and other foods offers a window into a barter economy that has kept North Korea afloat despite years of isolation, abuse and sanctions.

“Back in the day, people had injogogi to fill themselves up as a substitute for meat,” said Cho Ui-sung, a North Korean who defected to the South in 2014. “Now people eat it for its taste.”

North Korea was set up with backing from the Soviet Union as a socialist state. The Soviet collapse in 1991 crippled the North Korean economy and brought down its centralized food distribution system. As many as three million people died. Those who survived were forced to forage, barter and invent meals from whatever they found. Since people started to use their own initiative, studies indicate, person-to-person dealings have become the way millions of North Koreans procure basic necessities such as food and clothing.

But the prevalence of informal markets also makes it hard to understand the exact state of the North Korean economy. And this makes it hard to measure how badly sanctions, which do not apply to North Korean food imports, are hurting ordinary people.

Pyongyang has said the curbs threaten the survival of its children. Defectors say a poor corn harvest this year has made it hard for people in rural areas to feed themselves. The agencies who want to help find all this hard to measure.

Pyongyang says 70 percent of North Koreans still use the state’s central distribution system as their main source of food, the same number of people that the U.N. estimates are “food insecure.” The system consistently provides lower food rations than the government’s daily target, according to U.N. food agency the World Food Programme (WFP). The U.N. uses this information to call on member states to provide food aid for North Korea – $76 million for “nutrition support” alone at its last request – of which it has received $42 million.

But surveys and anecdotal evidence from defectors suggest private markets are the main source of supply for most North Koreans.

“It becomes sort of ridiculous to analyze food distribution in North Korea by focusing on an archaic system that’s lost so much of its significance over the past couple of decades,” said Benjamin Silberstein, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who researches the North Korean economy.

The WFP and the U.N.’s other main food aid agency, the Food and Agricultural Organization, said the U.N. relies on all available information and inputs, including official statistics. The agencies have a permanent office in Pyongyang and make regular visits to Public Distribution Centers, farms and occasionally markets in North Korea.

“We recognize that the data and their sources are limited but it’s the best we have available at present,” said the U.N. agencies in a joint statement, referring to the official North Korean government data.

The agencies said they have seen no sign that more food than needed is delivered to North Koreans. “The main issue … is a monotonous diet – mainly rice/maize, kimchi and bean paste – lacking in essential fats and protein,” the statement said.

The North Korean diplomatic mission in Geneva did not respond to questions about how international sanctions might be harming food availability and whether U.N. aid agencies had access to markets in North Korea to assess the products on offer.

Women wearing traditional clothes enjoy ice-cream in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017.

FILE PHOTO: Women wearing traditional clothes enjoy ice-cream in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

SAND EEL SAUCE

Last year, North Korea’s economy grew by 3.9 percent – its fastest in 17 years and faster than many developed economies, according to South Korea’s central bank. It was helped largely by mining, market reforms, and dealings with China, its neighbor and now the world’s largest economy. Reporters saw signs of chronic hunger in North Korea as recently as 2013, but people who have defected say the food supply has improved in recent years.

Eight defectors told Reuters they ate much the same thing as people in the South. Asked about the contents of their food cupboards, most said they were stocked with privately grown vegetables, locally made snacks and rice, or if they were poor, corn, which is a cheaper staple.

Younger and wealthier defectors say they had plenty of meat, although it was often seasonal because electric power is too erratic to power fridges. Pork is common, but defectors also talked of eating dog meat, rabbit, and badger.

Even so, on average North Koreans are less well nourished than their Southern neighbors. The WFP says around one in four children have grown less tall than their South Korean counterparts. A study from 2009 said pre-school children in the North were up to 13 cm (5 inches) shorter and up to 7 kg (15 pounds) lighter than those brought up in the South.

The North’s Public Distribution System (PDS) stipulates that 70 percent of people receive ration coupons to spend at state distribution shops. The other 30 percent are farmers who are not eligible for rations because they grow their own vegetables in private plots. According to the WFP, the PDS had been reinstated by 2006.

Defectors say Kim Jong Un, who came to power in 2011, also quietly loosened the rules on private trade.

Some markets, known as “grasshopper markets” for the speed with which traders set up and take down the stalls, are still illegal. But there are also officially sanctioned markets, where traders are free to buy and sell provided they pay stall fees to the state.

Dog meat or "Dan go gi" in North Korean expression, is placed on a table at a famous restaurant

FILE PHOTO: Dog meat or “Dan go gi” in North Korean expression, is placed on a table at a famous restaurant in Pyongyang November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won/File Photo

Inventions like injogogi are among foods traded on these stalls. It is low in calories but rich in protein and fiber, to help muscle growth and keep hunger at bay, said Lee Ae-ran, a chef from the North Korean town of Hyesan who took a doctorate in nutrition in Seoul. “Because it contains so much protein, it’s also very chewy,” Lee said.

The sauce can be delicious, said Cho. “People who lived by the sea put shredded anchovies in the sauce; people living in the countryside used spicy peppers. I lived close by shore so I used shredded sand eels.”

The jangmadang are remotely monitored by a website called Daily NK, a Seoul-based operation staffed by North Korean defector journalists. It said in a report released this August that there are 387 officially sanctioned markets in the country, encompassing more than half a million stalls. Over 5 million people are either “directly or indirectly” reliant on the markets, “solidifying their place in North Korean society as an integral and irreversible means of survival,” the report said.

In 2015, a survey of 1,017 defectors by Seoul University professor Byung-yeon Kim found that official channels such as the PDS accounted for just 23.5 percent of people’s food intake. Around 61 percent of respondents said private markets were their most important source of food, and the remaining 15.5 percent came from self-cultivated crops.

So the official system may mean little to many North Koreans.

“WFP has consistently been asking (the North Korean government) to carry out a more detailed study on market activity and the role of markets in achieving household food security,” a spokeswoman said.

 

PIZZA IN PYONGYANG

As in other countries, North Korea’s wealthy have choice. Residents of the capital can order up a pizza in one of Pyongyang’s hundreds of restaurants, say regular visitors. Many of the eateries are operated by state-owned enterprises. Some used to cater only to tourists. Increasingly they now also collect dollars and euros from locals.

At a place people know as the “Italian on Kwangbok Street,” for example, moneyed locals and western tourists alike can pick vongole pasta for $3.50, or pepperoni pizzas for $10, the menu says. This compares with $0.30 for a kilo of corn or $0.50 for a portion of injogogi in the markets.

Reuters was unable to determine how the restaurant sources its ingredients such as pepperoni, although North Korea imports processed meats and cheeses from European countries and Southeast Asia – such imports are legal. Calls to the phone numbers on the menu failed and an operator for the Pyongyang switchboard said the numbers could not be connected to international lines.

As the economy in North Korea has changed, so have the tastes of a moneyed middle class keen to try new foods. Kim Jong Un has called for more domestically produced goods, according to state media, and there are more locally made sweets, snacks and candies. The country does not publish detailed import data but China’s exports of sugar to North Korea in January to September this year ballooned to 44,725 tonnes, Chinese data shows. That is about half of all China’s global sugar exports and compares with 1,236 tonnes in 2016 and 2,843 in 2015.

North Korea does not produce sugar. According to the International Sugar Organization, the North’s sugar consumption is fairly steady at around 89,000-90,000 tonnes a year – a very modest amount per head. Each South Korean consumes about nine times more than that.

At the other end of the social scale, Chinese data shows corn exports to North Korea also jumped in the first nine months of this year, to nearly 50,000 tonnes, compared with just over 3,000 tonnes in the whole of 2016.

Daily NK reporters say they call secret sources in North Korea several times a week to get the market price of rice, corn, pork, fuels and the won currency – which is traded at around 8,100 to the dollar, as opposed to the official rate of around 100 to the dollar.

So far, their reports suggest, petrol and diesel prices have doubled since the most recent round of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The market price of rice and corn has increased less sharply. Reuters was not able to independently confirm their reports.

And there are other ways North Koreans can supplement their diets.

“My dad often received bribes,” said one 28-year-old defector who asked to be identified only by her surname, Kang, because when she moved out in late 2010 she left her father behind.

He was a high-ranking public official. The bribes he received included goat meat, dog meat and deer meat, she said.

(For a graphic on ‘Rising costs, falling aid’ click http://tmsnrt.rs/2h95QBL)

 

 

(Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul, Nigel Hunt in London and Vincent Lee in Beijing; Edited by Sara Ledwith)

 

‘We have nothing to survive on;’ desperation as Haiti toll hits over 400

People try to rebuild their destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Hait

By Makini Brice and Joseph Guyler Delva

LES CAYES, Haiti/PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – The number of people killed by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti rose rapidly into the hundreds on Thursday, mainly in villages making contact with the outside world days after the cyclone ripped through the impoverished nation’s picturesque western peninsula.

With the numbers rising quickly, different government agencies and committees differed on the total death toll. A Reuters tally of deaths reported by civil protection officials at a local level showed the storm killed at least over 400 people.

“Several dozen” were killed in the coastal town of Les Anglais in Sud Department, said Louis Paul Raphael, the central government’s representative in the region. Inland in nearby Chantal, the toll rose to 90 late in the evening, the town’s  mayor said.

People wash their clothes in front of their partially destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes

People wash their clothes in front of their partially destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake wrecked Port-au-Prince, killing upward of 200,000 people. However, the impact of this tragedy, has been felt most in a remote but populated region, far from the capital’s support.

“We have nothing left to survive on, all the crops have gone, all fruit trees are down, I don’t have a clue how this is going to be fixed,” said Marc Soniel Noel, the deputy mayor of Chantal.

Matthew is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix in 2007 and was closing in on Florida as a Category 4 cyclone, the second strongest on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. Four people were killed over the weekend in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

The devastation in Haiti prompted authorities to postpone a presidential election scheduled for Sunday.

Many victims were killed by falling trees, flying debris and swollen rivers when Matthew hit on Tuesday with winds of 145 miles per hour (230 kph).

Most of the fatalities were in towns and fishing villages around the western end of Tiburon peninsula in Haiti’s southwest, a region of white Caribbean beaches and rivers backed by hills.

The storm passed directly through the peninsula, driving the sea inland and flattening homes on Monday and Tuesday.

People gather next to a collapsed bridge after Hurricane Matthew passes Petit Goave, Hait

People gather next to a collapsed bridge after Hurricane Matthew passes Petit Goave, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

FLEEING IN PANIC

Les Anglais was the first to be hit by Matthew and has since been out of contact. The mayor told Reuters just before the storm hit that people were fleeing their houses in panic as the sea surged into town.

A few miles south in Port-a-Piment village, Mayor Jean-Raymond Pierre-Louis said 25 people were killed. Another 24 were killed in the village of Roche-a-Bateau further south.

In Grand Anse Department, also on the storm’s destructive path but on the other side of the peninsula, 38 more lost their lives.

Earlier on Thursday, a meeting of emergency workers including representatives from the government, the United Nations and international aid agencies said 283 had been killed. Reuters attended the meeting.

In one public hospital in Les Cayes, a coffee and vetiver exporting port on Haiti’s Tiburon peninsula, most doctors had not shown up to work since they took shelter as the storm hit. Food and water were scarce in shelters.

Poverty, weak government and precarious living conditions for many of its citizens make Haiti particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. International aid has at times made things worse.

Following the 2010 earthquake, U.N. peacekeepers inadvertently introduced cholera to Haiti, killing at least 9,000 people and infecting hundreds of thousands more.

The Pan American Health Organization said on Thursday it was preparing for a possible cholera surge in Haiti after the hurricane because flooding was likely to contaminate water supplies.

In Les Cayes’ tiny airport, windows were blown out and the terminal roof was mostly missing, although the landing strip was not heavily damaged.

“The runway is working. In the hours and days to come, we can receive humanitarian flights,” said Sergot Tilis, the information officer and runway agent for the airport.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Joseph Guyler Delva; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Paul Tait)

U.S. Convoy brings food to besieged Syrian town

A man rides a bicycle past a damaged building in Daraya, near Damascus

By Stephanie Nebehay and John Davison

GENEVA/BEIRUT (Reuters) – An international aid convoy reached the Syrian rebel-held town of Daraya overnight to deliver food supplies for the first time since 2012, when the town came under siege by government forces, the United Nations said on Friday.

Trucks from the United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent brought a month’s supply of food for 2,400 people, Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.

Any sense of relief inside Daraya was short-lived, however, because the food supplies would not last a month and the U.N. had underestimated the number of people living there at present, the local council and a monitoring group reported.

The operation began late on Thursday and lasted several hours, Laerke said.

“They managed to get through all the checkpoints to get in there, deliver overnight, stock what needed to be stocked and provide food for the first time in years to people inside Daraya,” he told a news briefing.

Malnutrition has been reported in the rebel-held town, which is only 12 km (7 miles) from Damascus, where a first convoy with non-food supplies was allowed to enter on June 1.

U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said President Bashar al-Assad’s government had approved U.N. land convoys to 15 of 17 government-besieged areas in June. Air drops remain an option if the convoys did not move, he said.

As well as wheat flour and other foodstuffs, health and hygiene items for Daraya’s estimated population of 4,000 were delivered overnight and will be distributed by Red Crescent workers, Laerke said.

“However of course we call for unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to all people in need, wherever they are, but in particular besieged and hard-to-reach areas where we have still about 4.6 million people living under these conditions in Syria,” he added.

Some 1.9 tonnes of medicines for chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes as well as antibiotics and vitamins, from the World Health Organization were on the convoy, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

‘SUPPLIES INSUFFICIENT’

However, the government did not approve delivery of three burns kits that would have been enough to treat about 30 people with dressings and pain killers, rejecting them from the approved list, Jasarevic said.

There was also anger and frustration at the insufficient amount of food aid delivered, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The British-based group tracks the war using sources on the ground.

It cited the Daraya local council as saying the supplies brought in would not last two weeks. The council says the population of Daraya is over 8,000, – more than double the U.N. estimates.

Council spokesman Hossam Ayyash said it was unclear how the aid, which would cater for only a quarter of the besieged population, would be distributed.

“Of course we are grateful to the team that brought in the supplies, but unfortunately they are not sufficient. We don’t know what decision will be taken (on how to distribute the aid), but it won’t be able to be shared out among everyone who’s here,” Ayyash said.

On Friday government helicopters stepped up their barrel bombing of Daraya, the Observatory and local council said. Daraya was reported to have been shelled last month after an aid convoy was turned away despite an agreement for it to enter.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Latin America to tackle dual problems of hunger and obesity

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Latin American governments have pledged to work toward ending hunger within a decade while tackling an epidemic of rising obesity in the region – itself considered a form of malnutrition.

At a regional meeting of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), government representatives from across Latin American and the Caribbean drew up plans to accelerate cuts in hunger, which has halved in the region in the last 25 years.

At the same time, far more attention needs to be paid to combating obesity, particularly among women, in a region where nearly a quarter of all adults are obese, the FAO said.

“Countries have been very clear: the regional priority is to eradicate hunger by 2025,” Jose Graziano da Silva, head of the FAO said at the meeting in Mexico City which ended on Thursday.

Efforts to combat hunger will focus on Central America’s “dry corridor” running through Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where millions of people have been affected by a prolonged drought exacerbated by climate change.

“Today, climate change has caused those droughts to be more erratic, prolonged and unpredictable,” Graziano da Silva said.

He said Latin America and the Caribbean can be the first region to achieve two of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals – eradicating hunger and poverty – five years before the proposed target dates of 2030.

Since 1991, the number of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has halved to 34 million from 66 million and the region was the only one that met the U.N. Millennium Development Goals on reducing hunger by 2015, the FAO says.

Aid in the form of conditional cash transfers targeting poor families, pioneered by some of the region’s biggest economies, including Brazil, have meant people have had more money to spend on food.

But changing diets have triggered a rising tide of obesity, with nearly a third of women and four million children now obese in the region.

Programmes aimed at making it easier for family farmers to access credit, insurance, seeds and fertilizers, to encourage them to grow traditional food crops are one way of addressing the problem, Graziano da Silva said.

“The rescue of the region’s traditional crops and food products will allow to promote better diets and face the double burden of malnutrition,” he said.

Initiatives that encourage local governments to buy produce directly from farmers to provide healthy food for school meals, already well-established and hailed as a success in Brazil, will be promoted across Latin America, the FAO said.

The agency said more needs to be done to help subsistence farmers adjust to the impact of climate change, which brings increasing extreme and erratic weather from drought to flooding.

Latin America’s agricultural sector lost $11 billion due to natural disasters between 2003 and 2013, the FAO said.

Efforts must also focus on sustainable fishing by states signing an International Agreement on Port State Measures, which seeks to combat illegal fishing. Three more countries need to ratify the agreement for it to come into effect, the FAO said.

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney, editing by Ros Russell)