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Food Price Crisis

UNICEF/Niger/2005/Pirozzi
© UNICEF/Niger/2005/Pirozzi

In the past months, several UN agencies have issued warnings against impending "food riots" because of the acute rise in prices of staples food and other commodities.

International prices of basic food commodities have increased rapidly over the last three years. The FAO food price index rose by 9% in 2006, by 23% in 2007 and by 54% from 2007 to April 2008.

This poses an immediate threat to food and nutrition security in West and Central Africa and will exacerbate structural vulnerabilities for many countries in the region where the poverty rates are much higher than most other regions of the world, and many of the ‘non-poor’ are subsisting only slightly above the absolute poverty line.

Several countries in West and Central Africa are especially vulnerable to the global rise in food prices due to their high levels of food imports, resulting from low levels of agricultural productivity, climatic shocks, high rates of urbanization and in some countries the disruption caused by conflicts. Most countries, apart from the Gulf of Guinea oil producers, also depend heavily on imported petroleum products.

Soaring food and oil prices on world markets are therefore feeding into domestic inflation, particularly affecting the poor, whose spending mainly goes to food, while also worsening trade deficits and macroeconomic difficulties (except in the oil producers), with the risk of knock-on effects on public expenditure on services for women and children, the most vulnerable groups.

The most vulnerable countries are the structural net food importers in the western Sahelian region: Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal. They are all net importers of cereals and have high levels of nutritional vulnerability.

Potentially vulnerable countries include other Sahelian countries with regular climatic shocks and low levels of agricultural productivity, notably Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, as well as the northern regions of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo.

Fragile states or conflict-affected countries such as Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have very high poverty levels, are also particularly vulnerable.

In a region, where Government commitment and capacity to promote pro-poor economic and social development remains week in most countries and where natural disasters and conflict are recurrent, a shock and a long-term stress such as the one brought about by the food price crisis is likely to exact a terrible cost to vulnerable populations in the longer term and to undermine the poverty gains of the last 5 to 10 years and reverse the modest progress made towards the MDGs.

Food security assessments and nutrition surveys
7 October 2008 - Key humanitarian and development actors convene to strengthen a coordinated long-term response to the food and commodity price crisis in West and Central Africa

Documents and reports
7 October 2008 - Key humanitarian and development actors convene to strengthen a coordinated long-term response to the food and commodity price crisis in West and Central Africa

Inter-agency meeting on the long-tem response to the food price crisis
7 October 2008 - Key humanitarian and development actors convene to strengthen a coordinated long-term response to the food and commodity price crisis in West and Central Africa

 

 
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