Helping poor small-scale farmers benefit from higher food prices and strengthening social protection programmes crucial
Volatility in food prices is here to stay, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Monday, even as it called upon its member countries to adapt to the situation by helping small landholding farmers and low income groups.
“The world’s food price problems are not over despite a current market lull,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told a ministerial meeting on international food prices in Rome. More than 30 Agriculture and Food Ministers participated in the meeting held on the sidelines of the 40th Session on World Food Security.
Representing India, Union State Minister for Food K.V. Thomas acknowledged that this year’s meeting was taking place in less troubled times than the first event in October 2012, when Ministers came together in response to the third spike in international grain prices in five years. “The outlook for international food commodity markets finally looks calmer this year. Grain production has rebounded and higher stock-to-use ratios should bring greater stability to prices. The FAO Cereal Price Index is 20 per cent lower than a year ago.”
But although prices have stabilized, Mr. Silva cautioned against dropping the guard. “International prices have declined but they are still above their historical levels. And prices are expected to remain volatile over the next few years,” he warned, adding that “higher prices were not necessarily all bad news as they came after three decades of stagnant prices that negatively affected the farm sector in many poor countries.” Asking nations to prepare for future market turbulence, he said: “If higher and volatile prices are here to stay, then we need to adapt to this new pattern.”