29 May 2008 In the next 10 years food prices will remain well above the levels of the last decade, according to a report issued today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The report says that current high prices will hit the poor and hungry the hardest and calls for the urgent mobilization of humanitarian aid as well as a greater focus on boosting agricultural production in the longer term.
“Coherent action is urgently needed by the international community to deal with the impact of higher prices on the hungry and poor,” Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO said at a press conference launching the report in Paris.
“Today some 862 million people are suffering from hunger and malnourishment – this highlights the need to re-invest in agriculture. It should be clear now that agriculture needs to be put back onto the development agenda.”
Using prices corrected for inflation, the report says that over the next decade rice and sugar prices will increase by less than 10 per cent, wheat by less than 20 per cent, butter coarse grains and oilseeds will rise 30 per cent, and vegetable oils over 50 per cent.
High oil prices, changing diets, urbanization, economic growth and expanding populations are underlying factors behind the rise in food prices, according to the report.
The FAO and OECD also cite growing demand for biofuel as another factor forcing up prices, saying that world ethanol production has tripled between 2000 and 2007 and is expected to double again in the next decade. Climate change, low stock levels and speculation could also add to price volatility.
In Rome, starting 3 June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will chair a three-day summit on the global food crisis, bringing together the heads of key UN agencies, as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, along with Heads of State and Government.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue