News / Africa

    US Drought Impacts Global Food Security

    Joe DeCapua
    The United States is the leading producer of corn and soybeans – two commodities that developing countries rely on. However, over the past two months, prices have risen sharply as the U.S. experiences its worst drought since the 1950s. A food policy expert says effectively responding to the drought can help prevent another global food crisis



    More than half the United States is experiencing the dual problems of too little rain and temperatures that are too high. Shenggen Fan, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, said that’s not only driving up prices, but contributing to price volatility as well.

    “The U.S. plays a huge role in global food security. The U.S. is the largest food exporter – soybeans, maize and many other food commodities. So anything [that] happens in the U.S. will have global significance,” he said.

    The decline in maize production has boosted prices by 30 percent in the past two months. Soybean prices are up 19 percent.

    Fan said, “Last weekend’s rain may have helped a little bit, but we think the drought may come back and will continue to affect both soybean and maize production.”

    x
    The price rises for corn and soybeans have a major negative effect on another important commodity – wheat.

    “Wheat prices have followed maize price very closely, and that will have more impact [on] some poorer countries in the Middle East. Many countries do import wheat not only from [the] U.S., but also from other countries,” he said.

    Fan said that droughts in the United States and other countries are not the result of occasional variations in seasonal weather patterns, but rather climate change.

    “It is clear that extreme weather events have come to hit us more often. So we have seen frequency as well as intensity increase over the last several decades. And it’s not only here in the U.S., but also in other parts of the world. More drought and heat in Russia, more floods in China. India is experiencing a very weak monsoon that will also affect their rice production. So definitely climate change is affecting global food production,” he said.

    China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans, and much comes from the U.S. China uses soybeans for animal feed. So a rise in soybean prices could lead to higher meat prices. Latin American countries are in a similar situation.

    The IFPRI director general has made a number of recommendations--one of which would directly affect U.S. energy policy.

    “Here in the U.S., biofuel uses probably 30 percent of U.S. corn. And considering [the] very high maize price right now, it would be very wise to stop using maize or corn for biofuel production. The U.S. right now has a mandate for ethanol content in fuel. I think it should be very, very wise for [the] U.S. to stop doing that. And Europe should also stop doing that as well,” he said.

    Fan also recommends the U.S., IFPRI, various U.N. agencies and the World Bank closely monitor the situation. That would allow them to take quick action in any emergency. He said large food producing nations should be ready to deploy some of their grain reserves, if need be, and warns countries not to impose bans on exporting food.

    “If we don’t take action, I’m afraid another food crisis will come and very soon. So that’s why we need to act together. It’s not here yet, but if we don’t act together I’m afraid the crisis will come,” he said.

    The International Food Policy Research Institute continues to recommend increasing agricultural investment in developing countries to ease the volatility of food prices.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora