Monitoring prospects for world food security

A new on-line service at FAO provides up-to-date global information on stocks and prices of basic foodstuffs. The Global Food Prices and Stocks Monitor is available in English, French and Spanish. The Organization was requested by the World Food Summit (WFS) to keep member nations informed of developments in food prices and stocks under Commitment Four of the Plan of Action.

FAO's Senior Commodity Specialist, Ali Gurkan, said that the information provided was aimed at policymakers and all those interested in global food issues. The Monitor covers a whole range of foodstuffs and gives an overall view of the situation at the global level. "No one else has so much information pooled in one place," Gurkan said.

The Monitor is part of the work of FAO's Commodities and Trade Division which also maintains the GIEWS (Global Information and Early Warning System) and produces Food Outlook, the Organization's key publication reporting on the situation and outlook world food supplies.

The Price Monitor is updated on a monthly basis and reports average prices for a wide range of commodities. Individual indices are given for the four basic commodity groups - cereals, meat, dairy products, and oils and fats - and the Foodstuffs Price Index is a composite derived from these four. The cereals index, for instance, is based on figures for 15 types of rice, as well as one type each of maize and wheat.

The Stock Monitor is updated every two months and gives information on global cereal stocks, including the stock-to-utilization ratio that FAO uses to assess world food security. Information on the percentage of different cereals in store and where they are - in exporting or importing countries - is also given.

Taken together, the Price Monitor and the Stock Monitor give a picture of the current supply and demand situation of basic foodstuffs and allow interested agencies to get a broader perspective on how the global market is working. The Monitor service is complemented by geographically specific information about food supply problems provided by GIEWS.

The current picture emerging from the Monitor shows weak global food prices, which have fallen to 1990-1992 levels, and stock levels improving for coarse grains and wheat. While this is good news, weak prices and healthy stocks are scant consolation for those whose incomes are being eroded by economic turmoil or civil strife.

7 October 1998

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