Poorest countries still suffer from high food prices

Thirty-one food insecure nations need emergency assistance

10 November 2009, Rome - Food prices in poor countries that are net importers of food still remain stubbornly high despite a good 2009 world cereal production, FAO warned today in its latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

The report was published ahead of the Rome World Summit on Food Security to be held in Rome on November 16-18.


Critical food insecurity is affecting 31 countries and they therefore require emergency assistance. In Eastern Africa, the situation is particularly serious as drought and conflict has put an estimated 20 million people in need of food aid.

Although international food prices have fallen significantly since their peaks a couple of years ago, wheat and maize prices strengthened in October and rice export prices are still way above pre-crisis levels, FAO said.

Food crisis not over for poor

“For the world’s poorest people who spend up to 80 percent of their household budgets on food, the food price crisis is not over yet,” said FAO Assistant Director General Hafez Ghanem. “It is now a global priority to increase investment in developing country agriculture in order to fight poverty and hunger”.  

FAO is hosting a “Hunger Summit” at its headquarters in Rome from 16-18 November 2009. The summit aims to securing a broad consensus on the immediate reduction of hunger with a focus on boosting public and private investment in agricultural development in poor countries.


Cereal production down in Western Africa

In Western Africa, cereal production in 2009 is to decline from last year’s good crop. Below average rain required re-planting in many parts of West Africa and led to livestock losses in Mali, Chad and Niger, the report said. Cereal prices in the region are still well above the levels of two years ago before the food price crisis.


For example millet in the markets of Bamako, the capital of Mali, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Niamey in Niger were 35, 42 and 21 percent respectively higher than in the corresponding period of 2007.

Imported rice was between 22 and 46 percent higher. FAO also warns that the expected reduction in Nigeria’s cereal production could lead to new cereal price rises across West Africa.


Worrying situation in Eastern Africa

In Eastern Africa the situation is very worrying due to expected crop and pasture failures from poor rains in several areas, the increases in conflicts, and trade disruptions and continuing high food prices. Kenya’s maize production for example, is expected to be 30 percent down on last year.

About 3.8 million Kenyans are estimated to be highly or extremely food insecure, mainly located in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. In Ethiopia, the number of people requiring relief food assistance increased from 5.3 million in May to 6.2 million in October.

In Uganda approximately 1.1 million people require food assistance. In southern Sudan and Darfur, the continuation of civil conflict is worsening the dire food security situation already faced by millions. Some 5.9 million people are estimated in need of food assistance.

North Africa's bumper harvest

In Southern Africa, in spite of a good 2009 cereal production high food prices persist in several countries affecting food security, FAO said.

In North Africa aggregate wheat production is expected to reach a new record of 21.5 million tonnes compared to 14.3 million tonnes in 2008 when the crop was badly affected by drought.


In Asia, the outlook for rice production in 2009 has deteriorated since July following irregular monsoon rains in major rice-producing India and natural disasters in some other countries, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Sri Lanka.


FAO produces a Crop Prospects and Food Situation report every three months.


Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Grain prices in Mali are still far higher than before the food price crisis.