Date Released: 
21/04/2008

Sharp increases in food prices, particularly for cereals and oilseeds, have been causing concern around the world. Overall food prices are up more than 75% since 2000, and in mid 2008 there were at their highest price since the 1970s. This has serious implications for food security and poverty, particularly for people in developing countries where it impacts on nutrition and health and has already sparked food riots.

Food prices have risen more than 75% since 2000 Wheat prices are up nearly 200 percent since 2002
Food prices have risen more than 75% since 2000 Wheat prices are up nearly 200 percent since 2002

“Higher food prices risk wiping out progress towards reducing poverty and, if allowed to escalate, could hurt global growth and security” said the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Numerous factors are influencing this price rise, including difficult seasonal conditions in the major production regions, population increases, rising demand for grain for biofuels, and increased input costs.

This situation is unlikely to ease soon.

“One thing is certain: for the past three years, the world has consumed more food than it produces. Grain stocks are at their lowest in 30 years. The situation is unsustainable.” said Mr Ban.

In the short-term the area sown to cereals is expected to increase and with normal seasonal conditions output will rise in 2008-09. But it is unlikely that the world will return to the long-term scenario of gradually declining food prices in real terms unless agricultural production is expanded, particularly in the developing world and sub-Sahara Africa.

The arable land utilised for permanent cropping is not increasing The average annual yield increase in developing countries has stopped increasing
The arable land utilised for permanent cropping is not increasing (Source: ABARE) The average annual yield increase in developing countries has stopped increasing

Some food price examples from the FAO

  • Second grade white Thailand rice rose to US $854 a ton on April 11. A month ago it was at $556, a year ago $323 and five years ago, $198.
  • In March of this year, powdered milk sold for $4,750 a ton. A year ago it was priced at $3,288 and five years ago at $1,835.
  • Yellow corn reached $250 a ton on April 4. A month earlier the price was $230 and five years ago $105.
  • Dutch soy oil went for $1,400 a ton in February of this year; a month before it was $1,216, a year ago $714, and $521 five years ago.
  • On April 11 of this year, wheat went for $401 a ton; a year earlier the price was $207 and five years ago, $144.
Food commodity price indices have increased across the board in 2007/08 FAO food price index for 2005 - today
Food commodity price indices have increased across the board in 2007/08 FAO food price index for 2005 - today

World media coverage on rising food prices has been extensive, below are links to some of the available articles:

World Conference

In June 2008 the FAO held a High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy. The conference looked at world food security in light of the impact of climate change and biofuels, which the FAO sees as potentially the biggest challenges we face this century. More information, including outcomes, is available from the website. Below are a selection of speeches from the conference:

IFPRI Annual Report 2007-08

The IFPRI Annual Report 2007-08 features essays focusing on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the current food-price crisis.

  • The first essay is by IFPRI Director General, Joachim von Braun, and it discusses the main cuases of rising food prices and suggests short- and long-term actions to reduce the impacts on the poor.
  • The second essay is by the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, and it focuses on humanitarian aid to assist poor people and discusses how such assistance can be linked to development in general.
  • The third essay is by the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Namanga Ngongi, and it suggests that long-term productivity increases are vital for poor farmers in Africa and discusses options to achieve this.

The Annual Report and essays, as well as other IFPRI publications, are available for purchase or download from the IFPRI website http://www.ifpri.org/.

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