After being largely eliminated by structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and 1990s, large-scale input subsidy programs are regaining popularity throughout the developing world, particularly in Africa south of the Sahara. It's estimated that African countries spend, on average, 30 percent of their agriculture budgets on these programs, which aim to increase small farmers' investments in new technologies and increase agricultural production. Despite these programs' widespread use, however, debate abounds about how efficient input subsidy programs actually are.
Asia is a region characterized by unique agricultural and economic opportunities and challenges. In recent years, many Asian countries have made great strides in transforming their agricultural systems and reducing their numbers of poor and malnourished. Despite this progress, however, the region remains home to most of the world's poor and hungry, and faces additional challenges in the form of environmental degradation and climate change.
The USDA released last week its April edition of the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). The WASDE report provides monthly comprehensive forecasts of supply and demand for major U.S. and global crops, supplied by the USDA. Crops covered include wheat, coarse grains, rice, and oilseeds. This report can explain past and current global commodities trends, as well as predict trends for the coming year. This month's report sees higher global wheat stocks for 2012/13, but tight stock-to-use ratios for both corn and soybeans.
One of the most populous countries in the developing world, Bangladesh has made impressive strides in recent years in both food self-sufficiency and poverty reduction. Since 1990, Bangladesh's Global Hunger Index score has fallen from 37.9 to 24.0, meaning a fall from extremely alarming levels of hunger. And from 2000 - 2010, the incidence of poverty in the country declined from 49 percent to 32 percent. Still, much remains to be done to ensure that the country continues its upward climb.
The FAO Food Price Index rose slightly in March based on higher dairy prices. The Index rose by 1 percent from February, but is still 1.7 percent lower than March of 2012 and nearly 11 percent below its peak in February 2011.
Ethiopia faces many challenges, but the country is quickly shedding its label as one of the world’s poorest countries, finding itself today among the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. The question now at hand is how to sustain this historic growth, and emerge as a middle-income country by 2025. The Ethiopian government is turning to its leading—but one of its most underperforming— industries for the answer: agriculture.
It's become clearer and clearer in recent years that spikes in food prices can have significant impact on incomes, markets, and nutrition worldwide. Extreme fluctuations in the price of food can pose challenges for both consumers and producers, and also often lead to political and market overreaction such as export restrictions. While such policies are designed to protect domestic populations, they can further exacerbate price spikes on the international market and have devastating consequences for global food security.
With breaking news about new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) coming out of China, questions arise again about how this disease is transmitted and what can be done to prevent future outbreaks. While the Chinese government has heightened disease detection efforts and increased prevention, control, and communications efforts in response to the recently reported cases, a strong global response is also necessary to control the spread of this disease.
Effective policymaking relies on sound knowledge. Knowing what works and what doesn't, who the target population is and what they need, and what the situation is really like "on the ground" is crucial to ensuring that policies and programs have the desired impacts. But all too often, critical information is out of date, difficult to locate and access, or even nonexistent.
The March issue of the FAO Monthly News Report was released today. The report covers ongoing global and regional trends in grain prices and policies. This month's report includes articles on shipments of Argentine corn to the United States, India's wheat production policies, and dry weather impacting South African maize crops.