A report released in Paris says international food prices will likely remain high during the next decade, although they will probably not hit the heights that sparked riots last year. Experts also say the prices will have a mixed impact in developing countries.
Jointly published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, the report predicts crop prices will be 10 to 20 percent higher during the next decade than during the previous 10 years.
"The basic message is that because input prices are higher, because biofuel remains high, this is going to keep real prices for agriculture [higher] than in the early part of the decade," said FAO economist Merrit Cluff.
The report also predicts that energy costs and erratic weather may make prices more volatile in the future. But the report predicts the price hikes are unlikely to be as dramatic as last year, when soaring food prices sparked protests and rioting in developing countries.
Cluff says the current global recession has driven down food costs in some countries, but not in all.
"In many countries, particularly low-income countries, income has been worse, the prices have remained relatively high. So the food security situation is perhaps a much at risk, perhaps more at risk than last year," Cluff said.
Meanwhile, Cluff says chances of higher food prices in the future are a mixed blessing. While farmers in Africa and other developing countries will benefit, net food consumers, notably those living in urban areas, are likely to suffer.
The organizations believe farmers have the capacity to increase food production in the coming years. But experts say governments and individuals must also invest more in the farming sector, notably in infrastructure, training, and agricultural inputs like fertilizer.