Coffee crops throughout Central America are being hit hard by a widespread fungal infection known as coffee leaf rust. The outbreak of the disease, which begins by attacking the leaves and can eventually kill the entire coffee plant, could lower the region's total coffee harvest by as much as 20 percent in 2013. The loss is expected to reach a whopping US$600 million in value.

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.

Over the past four months, weather patterns and conflict have played a key role in the food security situation in several regions, according to the latest issue of the WFP's Global Food Security Update. While good rains in the Sahel have led to a predicted short-term improvement in the region's food security, drought and flooding in several other areas of the world have produced shocks that are likely to drive more people into hunger.

A new joint program led by UN Women, FAO, IFAD, and WFP aims to empower rural women to work for food security, economic development, and social progress. "Accelerating Progress Toward the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women" is a five-year initiative that will be implemented beginning in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger, and Rwanda.

FEWS NET has released its April Food Price Watch, citing stable prices throughout much of Africa and Central America. The Sahel region saw relatively stable cereals prices due to food assistance interventions and successful transport from surplus areas. In East Africa, staple prices remained generally stable, though high; some areas in this region saw seasonal increases.

Read the full report.
Read the Annex.

Source: © 2011 G.M.B. Akash/Panos

In recent years, the world has faced continuing food security challenges. The food price spikes of 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 brought lasting impacts in the form of increasingly high food prices and price volatility, overwhelmingly harming the world's poorest producers and consumers. Guarding against price volatility to protect the world's most vulnerable populations will require restructuring global agricultural and financial markets, a need that global leaders are now beginning to recognize and address.

2006-2008 saw dramatic increases in the price of many staple food items, particularly maize, rice, and wheat. These staple commodities form the bulk of the diet of the world’s poor populations, many of whom spend over one-half of their income on food. The result in many areas of the world was worsening poverty for already poor populations due to a decline in purchasing power. While much attention has been given to the economic impacts of the rise in food prices, little empirical research has been conducted to examine the nutritional impacts of the food crisis.

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.

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Durante la crisis alimentaria mundial de los años 2007 y 2008, los precios internacionales de los productos agrícolas tales como el trigo, el arroz, el maíz y la soja subieron a más del doble. Mientras que las inundaciones en Australia diezman los cultivos de trigo del país y las inclemencias climáticas en los Estados Unidos reducen las cosechas de maíz y soja, los precios de los productos básicos a nivel global se ven nuevamente afectados por aumentos drásticos.