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Global Food Supplies Tight, Prices Up: Food security "precarious" in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Nairobi, 30 May. Sub-Saharan Africa's food security outlook is "precarious" as global cereal supplies tighten and food aid availability shrinks, according to a report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Sharp increases in cereal prices on the world market and consequent higher-cost cereal imports, coupled with balance of payments difficulties in food-deficit African countries will mean that a large proportion of the region's food imports will need to be covered by food aid.

Yet, FAO is forecasting global food aid availability in 1995/96 at 7.6 million tons, the third consecutive annual decline and the lowest level in 20 years. The figures are included in the May 1996 issue of FAO's "Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa".

According to the report, "There are no signs of an imminent improvement in the food supply situation in the current year in Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. There are currently about 22 million people in the region facing food emergencies of varying intensity."

The report says a combination of unfavourable factors threaten Sub-Saharan Africa's progress towards food security, including a 9.5 million ton drop in aggregate cereal production compared to the 1994 level and international cereal prices that have risen by more than 50 percent over the past year. Reflecting this sharp rise in prices, the cereal import bill for the low-income food-deficit countries of Africa in 1995/96 is forecast to increase by about $1.4 billion above last year's cost.

"Africa's precarious food security could lead to a genuine human tragedy," said Mr. Abdur Rashid, head of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System which published the report. Already 210 million people in Africa suffer from hunger and undernutrition; that's forty percent of that continent's population. The World Food Summit, which will be held at FAO headquarters in Rome from 13-17 November this year, will be seeking ways to head off this tragedy by finding ways to end such food shortages and guarantee the most basic of human rights: the right to adequate food for all at all times.

Noting "some positive signs," the report says: "The food supply situation is generally satisfactory in western Africa, following good harvests in most Sahelian and coastal countries.

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