Globally, poverty and food insecurity are both on the rise after decades of development gains.
Supply chain disruptions, climate change, Covid-19 pandemic, financial tightening through rising interest rates and the war in Ukraine have caused an unprecedented shock to the global food system, with the most vulnerable hit the hardest.
Food inflation remains high in the world, with dozens of countries experiencing double digit inflation.
According to WFP, nearly 350mn people across some 79 countries are acutely food insecure. The prevalence of undernourishment is also on the rise, following three years of deterioration.
This situation is expected to worsen, with global food supplies projected to drop to a three-year low in 2022/2023.
The need is especially dire in 24 countries that FAO and WFP have identified as hunger hotspots, of which 16 are in Africa. Fertiliser affordability as defined by the ratio between food prices and fertiliser prices is also the lowest since the 2007/2008 food crisis, which is leading to lower food production and impacting smallholder farmers the hardest, worsening the already high local food prices.
For example, the reduction in 2022 of the production of rice, for which Africa is the largest importer in the world, coupled with prospects of lower stocks, is of grave concern.
In response to the inflation of food, fuel and fertiliser prices, countries have spent over $710bn for social protection measures covering 1bn people, including approximately $380bn for subsidies.
However, only $4.3bn has been spent in low-income countries for social protection measures, compared to $507.6bn in high-income countries, the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Food Programme and World Trade Organisation said in a joint statement.
To prevent a worsening of the food and nutrition security crisis, further urgent actions are required to rescue hunger hotspots, facilitate trade, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance the role of the private sector, and reform and repurpose harmful subsidies with careful targeting and efficiency.
Meanwhile, one year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended agricultural commodity markets, food prices remain elevated even after retreating from their record highs in early 2022, IMF said.
With two of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and other crucial crops entering a second year of war, many vulnerable countries still face heightened food insecurity. Fragile and conflict-affected states, home to 1bn people, are at particular risk.
Eleven straight monthly declines have pushed food prices down 19% percent from a peak last March, FAO noted.
Inflation-adjusted prices in February remained above than the average level for recent years, though they are now back in line with levels seen before the war in Ukraine.
The composition of the FAO Food Price Index shows that vegetable oils drove the decline in prices, along with dairy and cereals, while sugar and meat are little changed from early last year.
Obviously, governments and donors must step up support for the most vulnerable, facilitate trade and market functioning, and abandon harmful subsidies.
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