AFRICA: Prices keep food on the shelves
In many African countries, urban populations are finding that there is food on the shelves, but they cannot afford to buy it
ADDIS ABABA, 22 June 2009 (IRIN) - An increasing number of Africans living in urban areas are finding it harder to put enough food on the table, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has warned.
"The food crisis and shortages are still there in some African countries," said Adam Elhiraika, ECA economic affairs officer. "We see [a] crisis when we do not have enough income to buy the food we need."
Elhiraika, coordinator of a team which prepared the ECA's Economic Report on Africa 2009, told IRIN in Addis Ababa: "We have less purchasing power. We also still have food shortages because many African countries do not have the capacity to respond to demand."
Released on 28 May, the report
, which was jointly prepared by the ECA and the African Union, is an assessment of the continent’s economic performance in 2008. It also examines prospects for 2009.
"In many countries, urban populations are finding that there is food on the shelves, but they cannot afford to buy it," it noted. Citing the case of Liberia and Guinea, it said governments there were struggling to import enough to feed their people.
"Pastoralists in Djibouti are discovering that sales of vital livestock fetch very little grain on the market, while in Mozambique and Uganda, rural farmers can hardly afford to buy the seeds and fertilizers they need to grow their family’s food, let alone reap the benefit of high food prices," the report said.
Across Africa, food commodity prices are likely to rise in the next 10 years, even though a decline is expected in 2009 and 2010 as supply and demand respond to high prices resulting from the global economic recession.
"Africa is one of the most affected regions by the high food prices," the ECA noted. "Food prices peaked in June 2008 and declined by more than 50 percent on average during the second half of the year. At the end of 2008, they stood at the level of 2005 but were still considerably higher than the 2000 level."
According to the report, the decline in world market prices had slowly worked its way into domestic prices in many developing countries.
"Still we have food shortages in many African countries because of drought and conflict situations," Elhiraika said.
|We see [a] crisis when we do not have enough income to buy the food we need
To avert the consequences, emergency aid was needed in many countries, including those in East Africa.
"The recent food crisis and looming starvation are threats to political and social stability, especially in east and west Africa and in conflict countries," the report warned.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food prices had remained high in many developing countries and access to food by the poor remained threatened by loss of employment, income and other effects of the global economic crisis.
However, in a Food Outlook
on 4 June, FAO said the world food supply looked less vulnerable to shocks than it was during the 2008 food crisis.
"In spite of strong gains in recent weeks, international prices of most agricultural commodities have fallen in 2009 from their 2008 heights, an indication that many markets are slowly returning into balance," it said.
The improvement was largely in cereal production - the critical sector for food security - after record production in 2008 overshot original forecasts. The bumper crop had also facilitated replenishment of global reserves to pre-crisis levels.