The price of food worldwide increases today, decreases tomorrow and stabilises the following day – depending on the season, political and economic climate and other unpredictable forces.
This creates uncertainty and anxiety among political circles and governments, as well as generating social unrest and protests from hungry and angry communities, giving an excuse to repressive regimes to use excessive force to keep protestors under control.
But the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) this week urged countries to adapt to the volatility of food prices, and not to drop guard despite the current quiet period.
“If higher and volatile prices are here to stay, then we need to adapt to this new pattern. And they are expected to remain volatile over the next years,” FAO D-G José Graziano da Silva said in remarks published on the Rome-based institution’s website.
He was speaking in Rome, Italy, at a ministerial meeting on international food prices attended by some 30 agriculture ministers.
Some analysts also believe that the uncontrolled increase of the world population, especially in developing countries, has contributed to the problem of food insecurity, as communities find themselves with so many mouths to feed with very little food.
The world has currently some 7.152 billion people, according to latest figures released by the Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED).
And when food becomes scarce and expensive, many people in Africa, Asia and Latin America do whatever it takes to seek social relief in so-called rich countries.
But the good news is that food price appears to have stabilised this year, and this, coupled with abundant rains that fell over dry regions, seem to have brought some relief and joy among poorer communities.
However, the United Nations warned against dropping the guard and folding arms in the face of this brief respite.
“The outlook for international food commodity markets finally looks calmer this year… Prices have declined but they are still above their historical levels,” da Silva said.
He urged countries to help poor small-scale farmers benefit from the higher food prices, and protect low-income families who suffer as a result of them.
“The current situation offers an opportunity for farmers to reinvest in agriculture,” he said, calling for a right set of policies to ensure that small-scale farmers have the means to take advantage of it.