The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization has recently issued a statement that the predicted rise in food prices needs to be on the forefront of every country’s agenda, especially those leaders of developing nations. Although food prices are predicted to rise through 2012, the prices will also be volatile, which means it will be difficult to determine shortages and market prices globally. It is a serious concern for all countries because it will make predicting the market nearly impossible, and without market assessments, policy guidance will be useless. Price volatility is felt by everyone – but not equally – around the world. Most of you reading this have probably complained about the price increases you have seen for certain items, maybe a gallon of milk or a pint of strawberries. But we are fortunate to be able to complain. Millions of poor people around the world cannot complain; they can only go hungry. Those who are subsistence farmers, or earn so little that the majority of their income must be spent on food – they are the ones who will be the most impacted.
So what needs to be done? Strengthening the resilience of small farmers around the world will go a long way in helping buffer the effects of volatile food prices. Not to mention improve health and nutrition for whole communities. According to the FAO, one billion people go hungry every day. That means they are eating so little that it does not meet the nutritional or caloric requirements for that individual. The causes for the rise in prices are varied, which is why so many people have been impacted. The droughts in Russia in 2009 caused wheat prices to soar to 60-80 percent above previous levels. Rising population in countries such as India and China have caused demand to rise accordingly, naturally causing prices to increase. The global economic downturn played hand in people having less money and many investments to stall. Climate variations in locations around the world have caused disruptions in harvests for many staple crops. The diversity of causes means that finding one solution will be nearly impossible. However, improving rural livelihood in the poorest (and hungriest) regions of the world will certainly go a long way to reducing the number of grumbling stomachs. Strengthening food security should be a priority of all nations, the poorest ones especially. The FAO has launched several programs to work on helping rural farmers in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras in order to improve their resilience during times of stress, as well as their overall sustainability. Read about the programs here.