Food crises far from over, hitting hard on poor people – World Bank

Global food prices remain high and volatile, hitting the poorest countries hardest and adding to the strains facing the global economy, according to the World Bank Group’s new Food Price Watch released November 1, 2011.

The Bank says while the food price index has dropped 5% from its February 2011 peak and dipped marginally in September by 1%, it remains 19% above its September 2010 levels.

According to the quarterly report, recent floods in Thailand−the worst in 50 years−may add uncertainty in the short run following estimated production losses of between 16 to 24 percent of total production.

The food crisis, the Bank noted, in the Horn of Africa continues, affecting over 13.3 million people in the region–an additional million since August, and the outlook remains frightening.

“Prices of grains rose 30% (September 2010–September 2011), with maize increasing by 43%, rice by 26% and wheat 16%,” said the report. “Soybean oil went up by 26 percent. Over the last quarter, however, an increase of 3 percent in the price of grains was roughly offset by a 3 percent decline in the prices of fats and oils.”

While a troubled global economy could dampen demand and push food prices down, the World Bank says the effect on developing countries would be mixed−hurting food exporting countries and poor producers in rural areas, and benefiting food importers and consumers.

It therefore warned that developing countries might have now limited resources to protect vulnerable populations following the economic crisis and stimulus spending.

“The food crisis is far from over,” says World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Prices remain volatile and millions of people around the world are still suffering. Let’s remember, averting crisis is not just about banks and debt. Millions of people around the world face a daily crisis of hunger and malnutrition.”

By Ekow Quandzie

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