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food crisis

Is the World Turning a Corner on High Food Prices?

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

 © Curt Carnemark / World Bank
If you Google the latest headlines, you will see plenty about the high price of food. Globally, however, average prices for major food commodities actually are 11% lower than a year ago, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s quarterly Food Price Watch. Does this mean the world is out of the danger zone on high food prices? Economist José Cuesta sheds light on the issue.

Food prices have been falling globally since August 2012. Have we turned the corner on the food crisis?

It’s true we’ve seen prices declining in a sustained way, but we’re still only 18% away from that historic peak in 2012. The reasons prices increased in the first place – such as growing demand for food and weather concerns – are still issues, and probably will be in the future.I don’t think that we have turned any corner. Prices seem to be less volatile, and that’s good news. But that doesn’t mean the level of prices hasn’t continued to be high; they are still high.

Food Waste: Doing the Math

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
Many consider statistics cold and faceless. I have always thought the opposite. There are multiple numbers in the development world that are striking and moving: the millions of people living on less than $1.25 a day; the number of children dying of preventable diseases or being unable to attend school regularly; or how many families have no access to safe water or electricity in today’s super-sophisticated technological world, just to mention a few.
 
But I have never found more compelling numbers than those related to food. In a world where 842 million people go to bed hungry every night, we actually produce sufficient food to provide, on average, 2,700 kilocalories every day, for everyone. In this same world:
 
  • Between one-fourth and one-third of the nearly 4 billion metric tons of food produced annually for human consumption is lost or wasted.
     
  • Asia and Africa account for  about 67% of all food lost and wasted, globally.
     
  • North America and Oceania lose and waste almost half of what they produce: 42%! More than half of food loss and waste in developed countries happens during consumption — usually as a result of a deliberate decision to throw food away.
     
  • Developing countries lose an average of 120 to 220 kg of food per person per year, which means that even regions ridden by undernutrition, such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, lose as many as 400 to 500 kilocalories per person, every day. 
If you want to know how many kilocalories someone living in your region loses or wastes, on average, check the following figure:

Food Lost and Wasted by Region, 2009
Food Lost and Wasted by Region
Source: Brian Lipinski, Craig Hanson, Richard Waite, et al., “Reducing Food Loss and Waste,” World Resources Institute Working Paper, June 2013.

The Time to End Poverty Is Now

Joachim von Amsberg's picture



If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
 
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
 
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.

High Food Prices and the Global Epidemic of Obesity

José Cuesta's picture

Available in Español, Français, عربي

Today, we know that being overweight or obese are major risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and premature death. We are constantly reminded that personal behaviors, influenced by culture and lifestyle, and our metabolic development contribute to being overweight or obese. In the March 2013 Food Price Watch, we wonder how another factor could potentially influence the world’s obesity epidemic: high food prices.

But first, let’s run a quick quiz. Many of us watch our weight routinely and may even have figured out our Body Mass Index—the ratio of body weight in kilograms by the square of body height in meters—to determine whether or not we are overweight. Yet there are some stunning facts about being overweight that you may not know.

Can you answer the questions about being overweight or obese below?  

Questions about being overweight or obese

Food Prices Are Soaring: 5 Questions for Economist José Cuesta

Karin Rives's picture

Read this post in Español, Français, 中文, عربي

Rice grains in bowl. Photo: Arne Hoel | The World Bank

Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank

The numbers are jarring: Global prices for key food staples such as corn and soybean were at an all-time high in July 2012, with corn rising 25 percent and soybeans 17 percent in a single month.

Globally, food prices jumped 7 percent between April and July. In some countries, people now pay more than twice as much for sorghum [1] as they did a year earlier, the latest issue of the World Bank’s Food Price Watch shows.

This is expected to hit certain regions with high food imports, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, especially hard.

We’re looking at a significant price shock, but does that mean we’re headed for a food crisis similar to the one we experienced in 2008? World Bank economist José Cuesta, the author of the quarterly Food Price Watch report, gives his perspective on the situation.

Longreads: The Way Out of the Food Crisis, Extreme Heat and Global Warming, London 2012 Bridges Divide, Combating Ebola

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

 

Food crisis warnings are getting louder, with many urging action to head off a repeat of 2007-08’s soaring prices and shortages. The Hindu lists driving forces behind food crises and “corrective steps” in “The Looming Global Crisis and the Way Out.” The story suggests a food crisis is no longer a “freakish phenomenon” in the same way extreme weather is no longer disconnected from global warming. Hot, very hot, and extremely hot summer weather has become more common since 1951, according to research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA includes a visualization of temperature changes through the decades in “Research Links Extreme Summer Heat Events to Global Warming.” The just-wrapped London Olympics that dominated the Twittersphere for two weeks wasn’t a mere sporting event, argues The Guardian in “Briefly But Gloriously, London 2012 Bridged the Divide.” The Games at times demonstrated the power to “transcend negative stereotypes and transform perceptions” of developing countries. With concern over an Ebola Virus outbreak easing in Uganda, Development Policy Blog interviews epidemiologist Dr. Kamalini Lokuge, a veteran of responses of Ebola outbreaks, before her trip to the stricken area.

Timing Is Everything: Are We Heading to a New Global Food Price Crisis?

José Cuesta's picture

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Today the world seems to hold its breath again amidst the sudden hike in food prices caused by a historical drought in the US and lack of rain in Eastern Europe.[1] It is a thorny task to predict whether the very recent increases in food prices will unfold into magnitude of the crises seen in 2007-08 and again in 2010-2011: differences between now and then in the price of energy, a critical driver of food prices, give a reason for optimism; as does the hope that governments now better understand the painful consequences of some panic policies that have been put in place during previous episodes. On the other hand, months of volatility in global food prices, low food stocks and food security crisis alerts in parts of East and West Africa all paint a gloomy picture.

Longreads: Hope Withers With Harvest, More Fish More Money, Aging Workforces Drive Jobs to SE Asia, Mapping Toilets in Mumbai

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

 

Drought, food prices, and global warming remain hot topics as crops in the United States wilt under the hot sun, raising fears of another food price crisis. The Guardian chronicles the corn belt’s adverse conditions – and the implications for the rest of the world in “America’s Corn Farmers High and Dry as Hope Withers With Their Harvest.” (For a view from South Africa on the drought’s ripple effect, see Independent Online’s “US drought puts pressure on SA food prices”.) On another food supply issue, Co.exist highlights a new study on the costs and benefits of rebuilding global fisheries in “More Fish Means More Money.” The bottom line: rebuilding fisheries would begin to pay off in 12 years, the study says. The New York Times blog India Ink relates an effort to address another huge challenge—access to sanitation—in “Mapping Toilets in a Mumbai Slum Yields Unexpected Results.” Bloomberg looks at the coming demographic dividend in Southeast Asia, where young workers are expected to gain jobs as workforces age in Japan, Korea and China.

Bank Spring Meetings highlight solutions to food crisis, conflict

Julia Ross's picture

Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

The World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings concluded Sunday, having brought renewed attention to the impact of the food crisis, challenges facing conflict-affected states, and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, among other issues.

In case you missed one of the many announcements or discussions held over the last two weeks, here are a few highlights:

What will it take to confront global crises?

Vinod Thomas's picture

Three interlinked global crises—food, economic, climate—were high on the agenda of this year’s Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. At a conference organized by the Independent Evaluation Group and World Bank Institute, a panel of experts—Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner; Hans Herren, President, Millennium Institute; Trevor Manuel, Minister, National Planning Commission, South Africa; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank; Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor, Government of UK— discussed not only the impact of each crisis, but crucially the links among them in seeking joint solutions.

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