A cross-sectional analysis of the cost and affordability of achieving recommended intakes of non-starchy fruits and vegetables in the capital of Vanuatu

BMC Public Health. 2015 Mar 28:15:301. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1644-2.


Background: The low-income Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu is experiencing a double burden of diet-related disease whereby micronutrient deficiencies and underweight occur at the same time as obesity related non-communicable diseases. Increasing intakes of nutrient dense, energy dilute foods such as fruits and vegetables will be important to address this issue. However, reduced access to agricultural land in urban areas provides limited opportunities for traditional subsistence fruit and vegetable production. Set in Port Vila, Vanuatu's capital and main urban centre, this study aimed to determine the cost and affordability of meeting international recommendations to consume at least 400 g of non-starchy fruits and vegetables (NSFV) per person per day, and assess the adequacy of households' NSFV expenditure.

Methods: NSFV prices from the 2010 Vanuatu Consumer Price Index (n = 56) were used to determine the minimum monthly cost of purchasing 400 g of local NSFV per person, after accounting for wastage. The 2010 Vanuatu Household Income and Expenditure Survey (n = 578 households) was analysed to determine the proportion of households' total and food budget required to purchase 400 g of local NSFV for all household members. Household NSFV costs were also compared against actual household expenditure on these items. Consumption of own-produce and gifts received were included within estimates of food expenditure.

Results: The minimum cost of purchasing the recommended amount of local NSFV was 1,486.24 vatu ($16.60 US) per person per month. This level of expenditure would require an average of 9.6% (SD 6.4%) of households' total budget and 26.3% (SD 25.8%) of their food budget. The poorest households would need to allocate 40.9% (SD 34.3%) of their total food budget to NSFV to purchase recommended amounts of these foods. Twenty-one percent of households recorded sufficient NSFV expenditure while 23.4% recorded less than 10% of the expenditure required to meet the NSFV recommendations.

Conclusions: Achieving recommended intakes of local NSFV in Port Vila is largely unaffordable, and expenditure on these foods was inadequate for most households in Port Vila in 2010. Addressing fruit and vegetable affordability will be an important consideration in prevention of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific region.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / economics
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / economics*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Fruit / economics*
  • Humans
  • Poverty
  • Vanuatu
  • Vegetables / economics*