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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs