Saturday, January 24, 2009

The food price crisis of 2008, what to do next?

The United Nations high level task force on the food crisis is about to have another meeting. UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon and Spain's prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will host the meeting in Madrid on January 26th.

An article on IRIN breaks down the issues that surround the meeting.

As food inflation shot to almost 60 percent in Ethiopia in 2008, the beneficiaries of a safety net programme offering cash to build resilience to face shocks opted for food.

The rising prices "may have reduced the hoped-for long-term impacts of the programme [to help people become more resilient and break the cycle of dependence on food aid]" said John Hoddinott, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The global food price crisis that led to nearly a billion malnourished people in 2008 is not over, said David Nabarro, coordinator of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. "Food systems in many countries are not working for poor people."

The economic slowdown has exacerbated the situation. "It means both developed and developing countries have even less funds to invest in social protection programmes to help people become more resilient [and prevent them falling into the poverty trap]."

In its most recent report the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the food price crisis had pushed another 40 million into hunger in 2008, bringing the global number of undernourished people closer to a billion.

Food is not going to get cheaper soon; prices of major cereals have fallen by over 50 percent from their peak earlier in 2008 but are still high compared to previous years, said FAO's State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008.

The purchasing power of cash transfers in Ethiopia had been steadily eroded by escalating food prices since the beginning of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in 2005, and then spiked in 2008, according to a new joint crop and food security assessment report by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP). The number of PSNP participants opting for cash transfers dropped from 74 percent in 2005 to 48 percent in 2008.

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