Nelly Bassily | February 7, 2011
In January of this year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization released statistics showing that food prices are at their highest since the 2008 food price crisis. The figures triggered a broad range of reactions from around the world. Farm Radio Weekly asked its readers how rising food prices might affect 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. The cost of electricity is set to increase by 14 percent. This cost will be passed on to the consumer. In this week’s story, a farmer tells us how this 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 email@example.com, 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/.
Here are some recent reports on 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 on 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 compared to a month ago, two months ago, or a year ago?
-What are consumers doing to cope? Are there alternative foods (other than staples) 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 food needs?
Effects on farmers:
-What changes have farmers seen in the cost of inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds, and the price 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 other 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 participated? Have peaceful demonstrators been free to gather and express themselves? If there was a violent protest or a violent response, what was the impact?
-What are civil society groups asking the government or citizens to do? What is their response to actions taken by their government so far?
Response by government:
-Has your government taken any action, such as subsidizing food or reducing taxes 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 to take action on this issue? Do these groups feel that the government’s suggestions will be effective, and if so, do they have the resources to carry them out?