Impact of Rising Food Prices in the CEE/CIS Region
Food prices have been rising in eastern Europe and Central Asia since early 2007. It’s been part of a wider phenomenon of rising inflation. In the eastern part of central Asia, Tajikistan has been identified by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) as one of the 22 countries in the world most vulnerable to a rise in food prices. It is a net importer of energy, grain, and has relatively high levels of poor nutrition among children. This food security problem in Tajikistan has been aggravated by poor harvests of grain, fruit and vegetables so far in 2008. However, Tajikistan is not the only country at risk.
Many communities across eastern Europe and central Asia are grappling with soaring commodity prices, including food. It is another indication of the trend towards social disparities in the region. For too many, up to 80 per cent of their weekly expenditure is on food. From what is known so far it is largely the urban poor who are most vulnerable. International organisations, in collaboration with governments, are working on what can be done to alleviate some of effects of inflation in the price of global commodities. UNICEF is analysing the situation regarding the vulnerable poor, especially children and women, and considering policy options, including the need for humanitarian support, should the need arise.
Causes and Solutions
The causes of the price rise are complex, with speculation and the shift to an export-oriented agriculture (cotton, cattle food, biofuels, etc) playing a major role. It is unlikely that measures such as prohibiting exports will solve the issue in the long run.
Mr Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, expressed deep preoccupation on the world situation of food production and set up a High-Level Task Force, some recommendations of which include boosting smallholder farmer food production trough the injection of key inputs, long term investment in infrastructure and micro-credit programmes.
80% of food security-vulnerable people are among smallholder farmers, children in a rural environment being vulnerable among the vulnerable. A price rise of 1% in basic products results in food insecurity for 16 million more people, according to IFAD.
According to IAASTD, agricultural productivity could be increased by 56% in using agrobiological techniques, available to these smallholder farmers and their families. Agrobiological techniques do not raise the environmental issues - biodiversity, pollution, climate change - linked to an extended use of GMOs, soil, chemicals and ground water.