The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has released a food security alert for East Africa, citing ongoing drought, uncertain rainfall predictions, and increasing international food prices. Rainfall totals were less than 30 percent of average in certain regions of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya from October-December 2010. This severe water shortage led to a failure of January-February harvests in the region. FEWS NET predicts that as many as five million people in the area will have difficulty meeting basic food and water requirements in the coming months.

The FAO Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) has released several special alerts since the start of 2011. GIEWS alerts are the result of rapid evaluation missions and give information on countries' crop production, food supply situation at national and sub-national levels, and food aid needs. This regional and country-level information is essential for the international community to respond to crises in the developing world. Recent alerts have covered recent droughts in China and floods in South Africa.

The World Bank has released its Food Price Watch for February, citing estimates that suggest an additional 44 million people may have fallen into poverty in low- and middle-income
countries due to the rise in food prices since June 2010. The overall global rise in food prices has been driven by increases in the prices of wheat, maize, sugar, and fats and oils. (Track the rise in global commodities prices and futures prices with agricultural commodities tools )

A child in Bangladesh receives nutritional supplements.

The FAO has released its Food Price Index for January, 2011. This report provides a measure of the monthly change in international prices for major food commodities. The January Price Index rose for the seventh consecutive month, showing a marked increase in the global price of all major commodities. Such an increase makes this month's Price Index the highest (in both real and nominal terms) since the index was first backtracked in 1990.

To view the whole report, visit http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/FoodPricesIndex/en/

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net), funded by USAID, has released its latest Food Assistance Outlook Brief. This report provides forward-looking analysis of projected external emergency food assistance needs in 20 developing countries for the next six months. Overall needs at a national level are compared to typical needs at this time of year during the last five years.

Dowload the latest Food Assistance Outlook Brief below. For more information regarding FEWS NET, please visit www.fews.net.

With all the news of floods in Australia decimating the country’s wheat crop and adverse weather in the US cutting corn and soybean harvests, commodities prices across the globe are again seeing drastic increases, raising fears that we may be witnessing a return of widespread food insecurity and subsequent political and economic turmoil. Moreover, the FAO’s recent statement that global food prices reached a record high in December 2010 has sparked the memory of the crisis in 2007–08 and turned global attention back to the issue of food security.

Commodity production and trade provide the primary livelihoods for millions of households throughout the developing world. The development of this sector is essential to poverty alleviation efforts and overall economic development. However, as witnessed in recent spikes in the price of wheat and soybeans, the commodity sector is challenged by severe price volatility and high marketing costs. Many believe that commodity exchanges provide a way to mitigate these risks and increase economic efficiency in a liberalized market environment.

The global food crisis of 2007–08 was characterized by a sharp spike in the prices of most agricultural commodities, including staple grains. High world prices were transmitted to domestic markets, eroding the purchasing power of urban households and particularly the poor. In dozens of countries, high prices sparked demonstrations and riots. A number of countries, including Argentina, India, Russia, and Vietnam, responded by restricting rice and wheat exports in an attempt to keep domestic prices from rising.

Strategic grain reserves—also called emergency food reserves or food security reserves—have received considerable attention following the global food crisis of 2007–08. Various models for holding reserves have been discussed at such high-level forums as the G-8 Summit and have been studied by the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and other regional economic organizations. By early 2009, countries that already had such programs scaled up their existing reserves, while countries that had dismantled such policies began a discussion about re-instituting them.

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