Urgent action is needed to ensure rising world food prices don't turn into a catastrophe, the United Nations said Tuesday, but it cautioned that panic buying and export restrictions aren't the solution.Summer droughts have scorched crops across the globe, causing sharp increases in the price of corn, wheat and soybeans, and raising fears of a repeat of the 2007-08 world food crisis. Such problems could be prevented by swift, coordinated international action, the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and International Fund for Agricultural Development said.
The agencies said sustainable food production must be promoted in poor, food-importing countries to make more food available in local markets and to provide jobs and income. The fact that one-third of food produced is wasted or lost to spoilage and damage also needs to be addressed, they added.
The U.N. agencies said in a joint statement that adverse weather has driven all three international food-price spikes in the past five years, while increased financial speculation and diversion of stock for nonfood purposes also have contributed to increased prices and volatility. Food-price inflation climbed toward the top of the international agenda after hitting successive record highs in early 2011.
The FAO, WFP and IFAD said two interconnected problems must be tackled: the immediate issue of high food prices, which can weigh on import-dependent countries and the poorest people; and the long-term issue of how food is produced, traded and consumed in an age of increasing population, demand and climate change.
The three agencies said the world is vulnerable to food-price shocks because global grain production is barely sufficient to meet growing demands for food, feed and fuel, even in a good year. They said that risk stems from only a handful of nations being large producers of staple food commodities, and when they are affected, so is everyone else.