Almost a billion people go hungry each day after food price rises pushed 40 million more vulnerable people around the world into the ranks of the under-nourished, the UN food agency reported on Tuesday. According to the UN's food and agriculture organisation (FAO), food prices have more than halved from their historic peaks a few months ago, but the cost of basic staples measured by an FAO index is still high: 28% higher on average than it was two years ago. That has increased the number of people unable to afford to eat enough calories to lead a normal, active life. There are now estimated to be 963 million people, 14% of the world's population, going hungry in 2008, up 40 million from last year. The FAO's hunger report, the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008, found that the overwhelming majority of the hungry live in the developing world, 65% of them in just seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. The worst affected are landless families, particularly household's headed by women. "For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream," said the FAO's assistant director general Hafez Ghanem. "The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality." Farmers in the developed world have been able to respond to higher prices by raising production, increasing cereal output by 10%. But those in poorer countries have not had the access to the fertiliser, seeds, water and markets necessary to capitalise on the price rises. The increase in cereal production in the developing world is likely to be less than 1% this year. In the poorest countries, it has fallen. At an emergency food summit in Rome in June, world leaders agreed to increase agricultural aid in order to help boost food production in the developing world, but the credit crunch combined with the fall in food prices from their historic peaks have taken away some of the urgency behind the international effort. "This sad reality should not be acceptable at the dawn of the 21st century," the FAO director general, Jacques Diouf, said in a speech to launch the report. "Not enough has been done to reduce hunger and not enough is being done to prevent more people becoming hungry." Carlos Galian, an agricultural policy expert at Oxfam, said it appeared that an opportunity to deal with the roots of the crisis had been lost. "The world's attention has moved on from the food crisis, but developing countries find themselves in the worst possible situation today," Galian said. "It is unforgivable that as soon as the issue is out of the headlines, the urgency of the response is lost as well." Guardian News & Media will begin a phased move to new offices during December. If sending post or a package, please check where the recipient is located before sending.