The world could face a new food crisis of the kind seen in 2007/08 if countries resort to export bans, the UN’s food agency warned yesterday, after reporting a surge in global food prices due to a drought-fueled grain price rally.
A mix of high oil prices, growing use of biofuels, bad weather, restrictive export policies and soaring grain futures markets pushed up prices of food in 2007/08, sparking violent protests in countries including Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti.
Concern about extreme hot and dry weather in the US Midwest sent corn and soybean prices to record highs last month, driving overall food prices higher again and reversing the Food and Agriculture Organization’s expectations for steady declines this year.
“There is a potential for a situation to develop like we had back in 2007/08,” FAO’s senior economist and grain analyst Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters.
“There is an expectation that this time around we will not pursue bad policies and intervene in the market by restrictions, and if that doesn’t happen we will not see such a serious situation as 2007/08. But if those policies get repeated, anything is possible.”
The FAO Food Price Index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 213 points in July against 201 points in June, the FAO said in its monthly index update.
The rise followed three months of declines. Although below a peak of 238 points in February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the index is still higher now than during the food price crisis in 2007/08.