News / Africa

UN Report: Higher Food Prices Here to Stay

Vegetables on display at a market in Zanzibar. Research shows that most African food producers are women, but that their output is much lower than what it should be.
Vegetables on display at a market in Zanzibar. Research shows that most African food producers are women, but that their output is much lower than what it should be.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Higher food prices and volatile commodity markets are here to stay. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD].

The report said a good harvest in the coming months “may keep prices below the extreme levels seen earlier this year.” But over the next 10 years, cereal prices could be 20 percent higher and meat prices 30 percent higher than in the last decade.

“We’ve been saying this probably for the last two or three years, since the run-up in prices in 2008,” said Merritt Kluff, senior economist in the FAO’s Trade and Markets Division.

Driving factors

Kluff said, “It’s largely contingent on…high energy prices, on the one hand, which [are] affecting…input costs and also demand for biofuels on the other side. That’s one factor. The underlying factor probably is rapid growth in emerging countries in Asia and South America, which is putting upward pressure on the demand for food and feed.”

In addition, agriculture productivity has slowed.

“We don’t see that picking up, despite the fact that there’s a lot of potential for higher supplies from developing countries, in particular, where there are large yield gaps,” he said.

Profits and losses

Some will benefit from the higher commodity prices, but others will suffer.

“Certainly, net food producers will be clear beneficiaries literally globally. Where price transmission from international markets to domestic markets is actually efficient, producers will benefit clearly from this. And we should see some, considerable, in some cases, supply response to these high prices,” he said.

However, higher fertilizer costs could cut into the producers’ profit margin somewhat.

“Those hurt, of course, are the net food buyers certainly in cities and urban communities, but also even in rural settings where people who work for farmers or people who are working in the rural area will pay higher food prices and they will lose. Some of them very poor, unfortunately,” he said.

Instability

Higher food prices triggered riots in many countries in 2007 and 2008. The food security issue is also linked to the uprising in Tunisia.                                      Kluff said the risk of violence over food prices and volatility remains.

“Certainly, it does. It’s much muted right now because fortunately we’ve had very decent crops and [the] supply disposition situation for rice looks ok. The major commodity that’s currently being affected is corn, or maize, and its prices are certainly higher than they were before. But that’s mostly a feed grain crop, by and large. Although it does have knock-on effects to the other commodities and they’re high, too,” he said.

Kluff said fortunately rice, a food security crop in Asia and parts of Africa, is not being dramatically affected right now.

G20

The G20 agriculture ministers meet in Paris next week. It’s the ministers’ first-ever official meeting as a group and Kluff expects them to address the link between food security and higher commodity prices.

“This is fundamental to the issue. In fact, we covered this issue of volatility last year in our report and we covered it again in this year’s report primarily for this reason,” he said.

The FAO and OECD have proposed some solutions, including better informing buyers and traders.

“We need to increase productivity growth, in particular, in developing countries. And we need to get greater information, market information, from countries so that we actually know what’s going on,” said Kluff.

He warned that countries that have imposed food export restrictions out of fear of higher prices could actually make matters worse.

FAO director-general Jacque Diouf said the “key solution” to price volatility “will be boosting investment in agriculture and reinforcing rural development in developing countries.”

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs