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A new food crisis must be prevented
9/13/2012
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Increase in food prices risks food security

Failure to take prompt and coordinated measures to face the increase in food prices that has been experienced since the beginning of 2012 may result in another food crisis like the one in 2007 and 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, the World Food Programme, or WFP, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD, alerted in a joint statement.

“The current situation in world food markets, characterized by sharp increases in maize, wheat and soybean prices, has raised fears of a repeat of the 2007-2008 world food crisis”, says the Sept. 4 statement. “But swift, coordinated international action can stop that from happening. We need to act urgently to make sure that these price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe hurting tens of millions over the coming months.”

According to FAO, in July alone the price for one ton of wheat increased from US$243 to $317; the price for one ton of corn increased from $244 to $316, and for soy, from $440 to $617.

According to these organizations, “two interconnected problems must be tackled: the immediate issue of some high food  prices, which can impact heavily on food import-dependent countries and on the poorest people; and the long-term issue of how we produce, trade and consume food in an age of increasing population, demand and climate change.”

Data from the FAO indicate that in Latin America and the Caribbean, 35% of the population—210 million of the 600 million people—live in poverty and almost 40% of them suffer from hunger and undernourishment.

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, or IICA, which is part of the Organization of American States, indicated that the increase in food prices is due to, among other things, a decrease in agricultural production because of the drought in the United States and adverse climactic conditions in other parts of the world.

Furthermore, the IICA considers that the international increase in corn, soy, and wheat prices will directly affect consumption and the food chains throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The countries of the region that are most vulnerable are those Central American countries, plus Mexico, who have free trade agreements with the United States and import almost all of their agricultural products from the US. On the other hand, countries that export grains, such as Argentina and Brazil, will benefit from the increase in the prices of these products.

The IICA added that, though the increase in prices is a temporary phenomenon and is limited to corn, soy, and wheat, “with regard to food security at the national level, the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population are likely to be those hit the hardest by any rise in domestic food prices, since they spend an extremely high percentage of their income on food, and in many cases are barely able to meet their minimum nutritional needs.”

“Higher prices of essentials like corn, which is the staple food of low-income families in some LAC countries, could exacerbate poverty and malnutrition, with negative consequences for social, physical, and mental well-being over the long term.” said the IICA.

The international organizations recommended the promotion of sustainable agricultural production for poor countries that import food, as well as policy implementation directed to adapt agricultural practices to the global climactic changes.
—Latinamerica Press.


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