Cross-posted from University of Bonn's Center for Development Research
Summary of the international expert consultation organized by the Center for Development Research (ZEF) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) held at ZEF in Bonn, Germany on January 31 and February 1, 2013.
By Joachim von Braun (ZEF) and Maximo Torero (IFPRI)
After a volatile few months following the US drought, global food prices stabilized in January, according to the FAO's latest edition of the Food Price Index. The Index averaged 210 points in January, unchanged from a revised December average.
The newest edition of the FEWS Net Monthly Price Watch was released last week, citing continuing high international maize and wheat prices. While maize prices saw drastic spikes in June and July 2012 due to drought conditions in the US, they leveled off, although at high levels, later in the year as more information regarding US crop conditions and global supplies became available. Wheat prices, on the other hand, rose steadily between May and November before leveling out in December.
On January 22, the FAO launched the 2012 edition of its annual report, “The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2012: Investing in Agriculture for a Better Future", in the US. The launch event was hosted by IFPRI, FAO, and the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa and featured speakers from all three institutions.
One of the biggest challenges faced by smallholder farmers today is climate change, and the increasingly variable weather patterns that result from it. While farmers in some tropical regions may benefit from rising temperatures, the majority of the world's smallholders will face increased hardship as a result of warmer weather and uncertain rainfall. Future food security, particularly for developing countries, will depend on how populations react to and cope with the challenges presented by climate change.
Food assistance programs are a staple in the international development world, used to address both humanitarian crises and longer term development goals. But what type of food assistance program is most effective in the fight against hunger and malnutrition?
A new IFPRI report examines this question.
The USDA's latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate has been released, predicting low global wheat and corn stocks for 2012/2013. Global wheat supplies are projected to be slightly lower due to reduced production prospects in Argentina and lower reported production in Russia. US corn ending stocks are projected to be 44 million bushels lower; higher US wheat disappearance will leave the balance sheet historically tight and is expected to support continued strong and volatile prices.
The latest FAO Food Price Index averaged 209 points in December, down 2 points from November and the lowest level seen since June 2012. The drop is due mainly to declines in grains and oils/fats. Overall, global food prices in 2012 were 7 percent lower than in 2011.
Cereal prices dropped 6 points in December, led by weaker demand for feed grain and larger maize exports from South America. Rice prices also dipped due to expectations of a good harvest.
Small farms, meaning farms with two ha of land or less, make up 80 percent of all farm holdings in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA). Such a large population clearly has the power to spur economic development in the region, and needs to be included in any economic discussion. But smallholders often find themselves confined to local markets or subsistence-level farming, leaving them trapped in poverty. What can be done to allow Africa's small farms to reach their full potential?
As one of the world's most important staple crops, wheat plays a crucial role in the global agricultural economy and in global food security. The grain accounts for an estimated 20 percent of calories consumed throughout the world. But a burgeoning global population and changing climate are putting ever greater pressure on wheat farmers to produce bigger yields. A new multinational initiative, the Wheat Yield Network, has recently been launched to help raise global wheat yields and develop new wheat varieties that are better adapted to meet the world's changing needs.