Global food prices saw a slight dip in March, falling 2.9 percent from their February peak, according to the latest FAO Food Price Index. Despite this decrease, food prices remain significantly higher than their March 2010 levels. Grain prices continued to experience extreme volatility.

Access the full report, as well as the latest GIEWS Global Food Price Monitor.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has released a food security brief for North Africa and the Middle East which examines food price trends in these areas. Increasing food prices are expected to have a stronger impact among populations where chronic food insecurity is more widespread, such as Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, and Iran.

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Recent trends in food prices—higher levels and higher volatility—mirror trends predicted by a number of experts. Given the complex web of factors influencing global food security, governments of developed and developing countries, as well as international organizations, must use a comprehensive approach to prevent a food crisis reoccurrence. This comprehensive approach should comprise a number of initiatives and reforms; while some of these have been proposed before, their merits are even more relevant today and justify reprioritization and reallocation of national and international budgets.

With an estimated 44 million people falling into poverty since June 2010, rising food prices and increasing agricultural price volatility is at the forefront of global attention. Commodity exchanges have long been touted as a way to mitigate the effects of price volatility and increase economic efficiency in a liberalized market environment. As with other aspects of global agricultural markets, however, exchange markets are facing increasing global interdependence as traders draw on information generated both domestically and internationally.

The economic, political, social, and nutritional impacts of food price volatility and price spikes are clear. In the 2007-08 food price crisis, 33 countries saw violent riots and social unrest as a result of rising food prices; in 2011, increasing food prices have been at least partially blamed for political turnover in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as riots in several other countries.

The FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) has released a special food security report on Lao People's Democratic Republic. This report is based on an evaluation mission conducted at the request of the Lao Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry to investigate concerns over inadequate 2010 rainfall.

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Successful global agricultural trade hinges on open, secure agricultural markets. Such markets provide risk management by allowing for inter-regional diversification of crops and food products and by reducing price differences through market integration. In other words, secure, well-functioning markets can balance one country’s food deficit with another’s surplus, and vice versa. In this way, global trade can support global price stability and food security.

With the world's population predicted to reach 9 billion people by the year 2050, issues related to global food security have taken on a growing urgency. Rising commodities prices, adverse weather events, increased use of biofuels, global and domestic trade policies, and shifting consumption patterns in the developing world will all come into play as the world's population grows. Developing appropriate policies to address such challenges is critical to improving and maintaining global food security.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has released a food security alert for East Africa, stating that the region’s current food security crisis is likely to worsen due to below-average rainfall forecasts for March-May, 2011. Rising food prices and declining household purchasing power in areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya have pushed levels of acute malnutrition above emergency thresholds in these regions. The worst-case scenario predicts rainfalls of less than 50 percent of average in the coming six months.

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Global policymakers were faced with a stark reality when food prices rose for the eighth consecutive month in February. In addition to affecting global markets, such increases can have complex and widely varied impacts on agricultural markets at the country level. A new policy analysis tool from the Food Security Portal can help to estimate and analyze these domestic impacts.