News / Africa

Food Outlook Improved but Future Remains Uncertain

People try to grab onions being sold by a political party at cheap rates as a mark of protest against the rising prices in Mumbai, India, January 9, 2011 (file photo)
People try to grab onions being sold by a political party at cheap rates as a mark of protest against the rising prices in Mumbai, India, January 9, 2011 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis

A new report shows an improved world food outlook but uncertainty about the future. The Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] Tuesday released its latest Food Outlook. Food prices are just finishing a season where markets have been tight because of the unstable world economy. The FAO says the next few months will be critical.

“We would have markets slightly more relaxed in 2010-2011, and therefore, prices slightly lower,” said Abdol Reza Abbassian, grain analyst for the FAO in Rome. “But slightly lower prices don’t make low prices. What we see in terms of supply at hand and the projected amount in the coming months into 2012, we do see prices [remaining] high.”

Abbassian said the number for the food import bill for 2011 is expected to be near 1.3 trillion, a 30% increase from last season.

“Now when you look a bit deeper you will see that the 30% increase in the import bill, which is the biggest of all increases, occurred in the least developed countries and countries with very low income,” he said.

In these countries, where people spend so much of their money on food, it results in a greater hardship for a big portion of the population. This would be the case, he said, even if governments decided not to pass the cost down to the consumer.

He explained that they might do that “because of fear of instability and other problems, [but consumers] still would have to pay for the imports. Somewhere along the line, the balance of their payment situation would deteriorate.”

While almost all foods, including grains, meats, dairy and fish, are expected to remain high in the 2011-2012 forecast, Abbassian said corn production could be problematic. He noted the strong demand for corn and said the world’s biggest producer, the United States, has had a decrease in production, due to some extent to the weather. Wheat production could also decline further in 2012, he said.

“These two crops, which are also extremely important crops for many countries around the world as food staples, are more on the forefront,” said Abbassian. He said the problem is not so much the availability of food but access to it.

He said not only are the prices higher “than we are used to,” but also “everyone expects these prices to remain at this level for the foreseeable future.”

He said the high prices are also an indication that farmers are probably not investing enough in their farms. “When asked why not, they may tell you prices are not high enough,” said Abbassian, who noted that it’s a vicious cycle.

He said the low prices that prevailed for many decades have done tremendous harm to productivity and agricultural systems, especially in developing countries. High prices may in some way remedy the problem, said Abbassian, but it will be a long transition.

He said what needs to be done is to make sure the most vulnerable have access to food supplies.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid