The Cost of Nutritious Food in South Asia
Abstract, World Bank, 2018
The high cost of nutritious foods can worsen poor diets and nutrition outcomes especially among low-income households. Yet little is known about the spatial and temporal patterns of the cost of nutritious diets in South Asia, where malnutrition in multiple forms remains high. Using existing food price data from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, two methods are applied to assess the affordability of nutritious foods: Cost of a Recommended Diet (CoRD) and Nutritious Food Price Index (NPI). The analysis finds that the cost of a nutritious diet is 38 percent higher in Sri Lanka using CoRD compared to the cost of a (calorie-based) diet that meets basic food needs, and 15 percent higher in Afghanistan. In addition, CoRD varies across cities due to variability in the price of dairy and vegetables. Comparison of the NPI and the food Consumer Price Index (CPI) indicates that, for some countries, the price of a nutritious food basket varies more by season and has been increasing at a faster rate than the price of a typical food basket. This phenomenon is largely due to the variable cost of vegetables.