Nelly Bassily | March 14, 2011
In January of this year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released figures showing that food prices are at their highest since the 2008 food crisis. This announcement triggered a broad range of reactions from around the world. Farm Radio Weekly wants to know how food price rises are affecting small-scale farmers, and the first response we received was from Zambia. Food prices in Zambia have been relatively stable in recent years due to good harvests, but the prices of non-food items are rising sharply. In particular, the cost of electricity is set to increase by 14 per cent. This cost will be passed on to the consumer. In our story this week, one farmer tells us how the increased cost will affect his livelihood. We’d like to share more stories on how food prices affect small-scale farmers. If you have a story to tell, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will contact you.
Here is the site of the FAO Food Price Index, where prices of staple commodities are tracked monthly: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/FoodPricesIndex/en/
FAO recently announced they will hold regional seminars to help governments make informed decisions on how to respond to high food prices: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/52232/icode/
Here are some recent reports regarding rising food prices:
Prices highest since 2008: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=91539
Food prices soaring in African markets: http://www.rnw.nl/africa/article/food-prices-soaring-african-markets
In May 2008, Farm Radio Weekly ran a number of stories on the food crisis. You can view these in our archive at: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/05/
Here are some other Farm Radio Weekly stories that cover the food crisis:
Cameroon: Four-day crisis causes long-term disruption in poultry industry (Issue 19, April 2008). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/04/21/1-four-day-crisis-causes-long-term-disruption-in-poultry-industry-by-lilianne-nyatcha-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-douala-cameroon/
Africa: Urban agriculture provides relief from high food prices (Issue 23, June 2008). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/06/02/1-africa-urban-agriculture-provides-relief-from-high-food-prices-canadian-broadcasting-corporation-the-herald-new-era/
Africa: Food sovereignty is solution to “food crisis,” says La Via Campesina (Issue 41, October 2008). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/10/27/2-africa-food-sovereignty-is-solution-to-%E2%80%9Cfood-crisis%E2%80%9D-says-la-via-campesina-farm-radio-weekly/
This week’s news stories may remind you of situations in your area or other parts of your country. Perhaps food prices are a hot topic of conversation, or there have been protests. Maybe you have heard that people cannot afford to buy as much food as they used to, or that farmers cannot afford to grow as much food as they would like. Here are some suggestions for investigating the impact of food price hikes in your area, and what people are doing about it.
Effects on consumers:
-Find out which foods have been affected and by what amount. How much does it cost to purchase staple foods now as compared to a month ago, two months ago, or a year ago?
-What are consumers doing to cope? Are there alternative foods (other than staple grains) that are available at a lower price? Can you find examples of people working together to pool financial and food resources? What support is available for people who cannot meet their nutritional needs?
Effects on farmers:
-What changes have farmers seen in the cost of inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds, and the prices they receive for their crops? Has this changed their profit margin or the amount of food they can afford to produce?
-In what ways are farmers working together, through co-operatives or similar groups, to access inputs, share labour, obtain good prices, etc.? What do farmers say would help them to produce more food?
Response by civil society:
-Have there been protests against rising food prices or the increased cost of living? Which groups (consumers, farmers, other workers, students, etc.) have been represented? Have peaceful demonstrators been free to gather and express themselves? If there was a violent protest or a violent response by police, what was the impact on communities?
-What are civil society groups asking the government or citizens to do? What is their response to actions taken by their government?
Response by government:
-Has your government taken any action, such as subsidizing food or reducing taxation on food, to reduce prices or support people who cannot afford food? What is the time frame for this action?
-Has your government called upon farmers, traders, retailers, or others in the food supply chain to take action on this issue? Do these groups feel that the suggested action will be effective, and if so, do they have the resources to carry it out?