Fresh risks to food security from high food and agricultural input prices, says FAO

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The global food import bill is on course to hit a new record of US$1.8 trillion this year, but higher prices and transport costs rather than volumes account for the bulk of the expected increase, according to a new report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Worryingly, many vulnerable countries are paying more but receiving less food,” FAO said in its latest Food Outlook.

The global food import bill is projected to rise by $51 billion from 2021, of which $49 billion reflects higher prices. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are anticipated to undergo a 5-percent contraction in their food import bill this year, while sub-Saharan Africa and the group of Net Food-Importing Developing Countries are both expected to register an increase in total costs, despite a reduction in imported volumes.

“These are alarming signs from a food security perspective, indicating that importers will find it difficult to finance rising international costs, potentially heralding an end of their resilience to higher prices,” the report notes.

“In view of the soaring input prices, concerns about the weather, and increased market uncertainties stemming from the war in Ukraine, FAO’s latest forecasts point to a likely tightening of food markets and food import bills reaching a new record high,” said FAO economist Upali Galketi Aratchilage, lead editor of the Food Outlook.

FAO has proposed a Food Import Financing Facility to provide balance-of-payment support to the low-income countries most reliant on food imports as a strategy to safeguard their food security.

Animal fats and vegetable oils are the single biggest contributor to the higher import bills expected to be reached in 2022, although cereals are not far behind for developed countries. Developing countries, as a whole, are reducing imports of cereals, oilseeds and meat, which reflects their incapacity to cover the increase in prices.

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