The food crisis and inflation scenario
The world is never the same ... the world is constantly in change ... uncertainties and new forces create new challenges to society. The Financial Express, dated 1.4.2008, p.no.1, highlights the challenges facing Indians. The wholesale price inflation index is now 6.68%, ahead of the RBI's target of 5%, for the week ending 15.3.2008. The Govt., is admittedly very concerned as elections are due ... hence, import duties may drop to zero for food products, staple items (wheat and rice), and edible oil. This is done to try and improve the supply position, and there by ease the pressure on inflation. Globally, the food crisis is deepening and food prices are soaring, due to drought, declining dollar, shift of investment money to commodities trading, and using farm land to grow fuel crops. By 2050, the world population is estimated to be 9 billion, and extra 2.5 billion will live in developing countries. Asia's increasing wealthiness and increasing demand for meat particularly from China has added to the food supply pressure. The world over, in fact, inflation is a concern, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) has commited to reigning in inflation through policy changes. The Japanese market is the second largest economy in the world, after USA, and its industrial production index is closely watched globally. The March 2008 figures are lower than the Feb 2008 figures, and it indicates a bleak economic outlook globally.
Food deficits and impact on health
One of the best ways of studying the impact of food deficits on health and disease patterns is to look at case studies. An example is the US embargo to Cuba. It has been well documented that the embargo has dramatically impacted the health of the average Cuban: please CLICK HERE. However, the Cuban crisis was severe as the embargo covered medicines too.
One of the most important impacts of food deficit induced malnutrition - is the rise in infectious diseases. In fact, in India, 25% of pharma market is the antibiotic market, while another 25% of the market is the gastrointestinal diseases market. Malnutrition is likely to grow these markets further.
Will the market for nutritional support therapies grow?
It is well documented that the healthcare industry in India is booming, this refers to the markets of pharmaceuticals, nutritionals, biotech products, and healthcare services. Let food by thy medicine and thy medicine your food is a popular saying of Hippocrates (the father of medicine). A number of nutritionals are promoted to doctors for prescriptions, and other nutritionals are promoted using the OTX route (where products are promoted to doctors and subliminally to end consumers directly). As the role of food deficits and diseases gets more highlighted, the nutritional market can be expected to boom in the prescription arena - particularly value added low priced nutritionals and nutraceuticals will see increased consumption.
Food deficits :impact on maternal and child health
Among patient categories, the pediatric and women care markets are very attractive given the high rates of patient compliance particularly in the pediatric market. In India, hidden hunger is a long standing problem that exacerbates disease processes and increases susceptibility to infections. The lowered consumption of high nutrition foods is bound to impact on the health of pediatric cases, and women (particularly pregnant and lactating women, where there could be a rise in low birth weight babies). Hence, vitamin supplements, protein preparations, iron supplements, calcium formulations, and other nutraceuticals/nutritionals will possibly see a better market.
Opportunity for corporate social responsibility and business
The food crisis (which cannot be solved overnight) and higher inflation, are bound to have an impact on the health, disease patterns, and stress levels in society. This scenario is an opportunity for healthcare organizations (commercial and non-profit) to offer innovative products and services, and help build a healthier and happier society.
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