News

    High Food Prices Expected to Climb Further

    UN world food price index hit a high in January

    One of the key factors pushing up food prices is the growing use of food crops to produce fuel.
    One of the key factors pushing up food prices is the growing use of food crops to produce fuel.

    World food prices remain near record-high levels, according to the latest UN world food price index, and they're expected to climb even higher.

    The index hit a record in January and has not come down much since.

    Today's high prices come less than three years after the index hit its previous peak in 2008.

    "I'm not surprised at all," says Shenggen Fan, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute. "The factors that pushed food prices higher remain the same."

    Food for fuel

    He says one of the biggest factors pushing up food prices is the growing use of food crops to produce fuel.

    In just the last few years, ethanol production from maize has skyrocketed in the U.S. In Brazil, it's sugar cane. And in Europe, fields of canola are sprouting up to produce biodiesel.

    That means food and energy prices are more closely linked today than they were before the biofuels boom, says Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

    But that's just one way food and fuel prices are connected, he adds, "the second one being the increase in transportation costs."

    Transporting food from field to fork costs more when fuel prices are high. And it also costs more to run the trucks, tractors and machinery to produce it.

    The cost of prosperity

    Meanwhile, the demand for food is growing where prosperity is increasing and diets are changing, especially in emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.

    "They deserve a good life. So they want to eat more meat, more diversified food," Fan says. "And that all demands more feed, more grains."

    Fan notes that it takes several kilograms of grain to produce each kilogram of meat.

    The tremendous global growth in the demand for grains means farmers in the major producing countries need to produce ever-larger harvests.

    Bad weather

    But last year the weather did not cooperate.

    "The midwestern part of the U.S. had too much rain," Hayes says, "and just about everywhere else in the world had too little rain. In particular, Eastern Europe had too little rain. It caused both Russia and Ukraine to literally cut off exports of wheat."

    Russia and Ukraine's export ban started prices climbing last July.

    Eastern Europe is doing better this year, but the midwestern U.S. is not, Hayes says.

    "We're really dry right now, so it's the opposite of last year," he says. "But I personally am getting more and more concerned about the size of the U.S. crop, both for corn and soybeans. So, potentially, things could evolve next year as they did last year and we could see higher prices next year as well."

    Hayes says high prices are actually good news for farmers. They will encourage farmers around the world to produce more.

    The question is whether they will produce enough to keep up with the ever-growing demand, and if weather extremes brought on by climate change will make it harder for them to do so.

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.