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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

'Exceptionally Lucky' US Boy Survives Flight in Wheel Well

The boy was unconscious for most of the flight, and appeared to be unharmed after enduring the extremely cold temperatures and lack of oxygen More

US Anti-Corruption Law Snags Major Tech Company

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in December, 1977 More

Cameron Criticized for Calling UK 'Christian Country'

Letter from scientists, academics and writers says the prime minister is fostering division by repeatedly referring to England as a 'Christian country' 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid