In its latest report « Crop perspectives and food situation », the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) makes a worrysome assessment of the food situation in the poor countries. Despite record production registered this year (close to 2300 million tons of cereals produced in 2008 according to the report), prices remain high, impacting the purchasing power of the poorer countries and social classes across the planet. Hence, the price of basic food products has continued to increase or at least hasn’t decreased over the past months neither in the southern part of Africa nor in South America, whereas food product prices in West and East Africa were considerably above their level of a year ago, despite a serious drop since September 2008.
This situation is worrying for more than just one reason. If prices remain high despite a situation of plentifulness, what will happen in a situation of scarcity? According to the report, the world cereal production in 2009 will be lower than the record level achieved this year. In Europe and the United States, forecasters estimate that less winter wheat will be planted because of the high input price levels (seedlings, grains, pesticides) ; in low-income countries already chronically lacking food, perspectives are even darker, due to adverse climactic conditions – receding of the corn crop in southern Africa, drought in Asia, inadequate rains in India.
As Lennart Bage, President of the International Agricultural Development Fund (FIDA) rightfully points it out, « it’s no use glossing around about so-to-say production records »: on the one hand because one billion people still suffer from hunger in the world, on the other, because in order to match demographic growth, the world will need to double food production by the year 2050. And, nothing is less certain.