Global Food Crisis Is Not Imminent, But Food Commodities Markets Need Regulation, FAO Official Says

A global food crisis does not appear to be on the horizon despite recent food price rises, but steps must be taken to regulate volatile food commodities markets, Hafez Ghanem, a top official at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Rising food prices in some countries “have raised concerns about a return to the political instability of 2008, when Haiti, Kenya and Somalia were among impoverished countries that saw rioting over the cost of living,” the AP writes (D’Emilio, 9/8).

“As I said the elements for a crisis do not appear to be there. But in the years ahead we’ll probably be seeing more of the turbulence we are experiencing now,” Ghanem, who is the FAO’s assistant director-general for economic and social development, said in an interview on the agency’s website, Reuters reports.

“Three factors are boosting volatility: increasing cereal production in the Black Sea region where yields fluctuate greatly from one season to the next; extreme weather linked to climate change; and growing importance of non-commercial actors in commodity markets, he said. ‘Given the importance of food markets in fighting hunger and ensuring economic stability FAO feels that the international community, perhaps under the leadership of the G20, should start looking at ways of dealing with higher volatility,’ he said,” Reuters reports (Tutt, 9/7).

Meanwhile, Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said food shortages and riots over food prices in Mozambique and other countries should alarm donors who have not delivered on aid promises, Reuters reports in another story.

“Most poor countries are still highly vulnerable,” De Schutter said. “Their food security is excessively dependent on food imports whose prices are increasingly high and volatile” (MacInnis, 9/7). De Schutter “called on the [upcoming special FAO] meeting to ‘move beyond words’ and prepare measures on speculation and food reserves. He also urged donors to step up their support to poor food-deficit countries. ‘Not acting now is unacceptable,’ stated the expert, speaking at the end of a mission to Syria, which has been affected by severe drought,” the U.N. News Centre writes (9/7).

In related news, Lito Banayo, head of the National Food Authority in the Philippines, the largest purchaser of rice in the world, said rice prices are “worrisome” because some of the largest exporters have experienced significant crop losses, Bloomberg reports.

“The FAO pared its estimate for global rice production on Sept. 1 for the second time since April as lower water levels in the Mekong River curbed yields in Thailand and Vietnam, the world’s two biggest exporters, and flooding slashed the harvest in Pakistan, the third-largest shipper. The agency’s Rice Price Index, which tracks 16 export prices around the world, climbed to a five-month high of 215 points in August,” the news service notes (Yap/Javier, 9/8).

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