Global brief: Prepare for rising food prices (WFP, AllAfrica, Oxfam)

| September 17, 2012

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In recent weeks, experts have warned that food prices are rising and may continue to do so. Maize, wheat and soybean prices have already increased sharply, raising fears of a repeat of the 2007-2008 world food crisis.

In early September this year, a joint statement was released by three UN food agencies, calling on governments to be prepared and to look for long-term solutions. The heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the UN World Food Programme noted that: “We are at risk because only a handful of nations are large producers of staple food commodities, and when they are affected, so is everyone else.” The statement notes that global grain production is barely sufficient to meet growing demands for food, feed and fuel, and that each year, there are 80 million extra mouths to feed.

However, lessons have been learned in the last five years. Some social safety nets are in place, and grain stocks are higher than in 2007-2008. The UN statement encourages governments to develop long-term solutions, such as promoting sustainable food production in countries which import much of their food, and where there is potential to improve production.

One such country, Liberia, reacted to the warning by urging Liberians to grow their own food. Madam Miatta Beyslow is the Minister of Commerce and Industry in Liberia. She recently noted that Liberia is a food-deficit country. Only one-third of the country’s domestic consumption is homegrown, with the rest imported, making the country vulnerable to global price shocks.

There have been three international food price spikes in the last five years. Weather has been partly to blame each time. This year saw the worst drought in half a century in the United States, affecting grain production. Oxfam recently released a report stating that the effects of climate change on food prices are underestimated. The global NGO warned that extreme weather events such as droughts or floods will increasingly affect food prices in the future.

While small-scale farmers may be affected by rising food prices, they can also be part of the solution. The joint UN statement urges governments to support farmers to increase production, sell to local markets, and contribute to cushioning themselves and their communities against food insecurity.

Further reading:

“Tackling The Root Causes Of High Food Prices And Hunger”

“High Food Prices: 10 Questions Answered”

“Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices” − report from Oxfam – available for download in French, English and Spanish at this link:

“International Food Prices Again at Record Levels, World Bank Warns”

“Impact of climate change on food prices is underestimated, Oxfam warns” (English only)

“Uganda: Hidden Hunger in the Capital” (English only)