Friday, July 17, 2009

Basic Foods Still Expensive in Many Developing Countries, Says FAO

ROME 16 July 2009 Sapa-AFP


Staple foods such as rice and wheat remain expensive in many
developing countries despite a fall in international prices, making
life tough for millions of people, a UN agency warned Thursday.

Cereal prices in many African, Asian and Latin American
countries are 25 percent higher than before the start of the food
crisis two years ago, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

"In several countries, prices exceed the already high levels of
a year ago or are still at record levels, creating hardship for
millions of people," the Rome-based agency said.

The organisation expressed concern for "vulnerable populations"
who spend much of their income on food.

Prices of cereals have fallen and good harvests have returned in
many areas following the crisis which started in 2007 and saw riots
in many countries as a result of rocketing food costs.

But this was not the case in many poorer countries, the FAO said
in its latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, with
reduced harvests and civil conflict among factors keeping prices

It warned that 30 countries were "in crisis and require
assistance as a result of natural disasters, conflict or insecurity
and economic problems".

The outlook for global cereal supplies was positive, the agency
said, with farmers set to reap the second largest harvest on record
in 2009.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 80 to 90 percent of cereal prices
monitored in 27 countries remain 25 percent higher than before the
food crisis started two years ago.

In Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the organisation
monitored 31 countries. It found between 40 and 80 percent had
cereal prices 25 percent higher than before the crisis.

In 2007 and early 2008, the price of some basic foods soared
dramatically, pushing millions of people into poverty and sparking
riots in countries including Egypt and India.

A range of factors were at play, including poor harvests,
expensive oil forcing up transportation costs and land being set
aide to grow crops for biofuels.

The problems have eased in many areas, due to a good 2008
harvest, falling oil prices and the recession easing demand for
some produce.

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