President Bolsonaro says claims of hunger in Brazil 'a big lie'
Jair Bolsonaro (Facebook)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday there was no hunger in the country, citing the lack of "poor people in the street with a skeletal physique" as evidence.

Speaking to foreign journalists, Bolsonaro blamed "populists" for propagating "a big lie" that some of Brazil's 209 million people did not have enough to eat.

"There is no hunger," the far-right leader said, noting Brazil "was rich in practically every type of crop".

"You don't see poor people in the street with a skeletal physique like in other countries.

"To say that there is hunger in Brazil is a populist discourse to try to win popular sympathy, nothing more than that."

Latest figures from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization show 5.1 million Brazilians are "undernourished."

But the proportion of the population suffering had fallen to less than 2.5 percent between 2008 and 2010, compared with 11.9 percent in the 1999-2001 period.

The FAO attributed the decline to social welfare programs introduced by the leftwing government of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, including the Zero Hunger campaign.

In a recent interview with O Globo, Rodrigo Maia, the powerful head of the lower house, accused Bolsonaro of showing no "concern" for the poor.