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CNN, Telegraph Examine Global Food Security, Food Price Volatility

In advance of Friday’s special meeting, convened by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CNN examines the current state of food security around the world and the outlook over the next few years.

A series of events – the drought in Russia, floods in Pakistan and food riots in Mozambique – has contributed to recent food price volatility and given governments “a much needed wakeup call,” according to Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist for the U.N.’s Security of Intergovernmental Group on Grains. “The pace in which prices went up, nobody predicted markets could turn so fast,” he said. “It’s been two months, and we’re still struggling with it,” Abbassian added.

Hafez Ghanem, the FAO’s assistant director-general for economic and social development, points out that markets could continue to be volatile for the “medium term,” but that current market conditions are different than they were a few years ago when food prices last spiked.

Julian Cribb, scientist and author of “The Coming Famine,” said food security is a major issue. “The most urgent issue confronting humanity in the next 50 years is not climate change or the financial crisis, it is whether we can achieve and sustain such a harvest,” he said. “We have to reinvent the way we grow food and reinvent our diet if we are to sustain the food supply through the peak in human numbers and demand” (McElheron, 9/23). 

The Telegraph reports on developments in Russia and China and how they are affecting global food security and policymaker’s actions. “The Moscow bank Uralsib said half of Russia’s potato crop has been lost and the country’s wheat crisis will drag on for a second year, forcing the Kremlin to draw on world stocks. Wheat prices have risen 70 [percent] pc since June to $7.30 a bushel as the worst heatwave for half a century ravages crops across the Black Sea region, an area that supplies a quarter of global wheat exports. This has caused knock-on effects through the whole nexus of grains and other foods,” the newspaper writes.

“Ominously, a corn crunch is also creeping up on the world. Global stocks are at their lowest level for 37 years, at a stock to use ratio of 13pc. … Corn prices have jumped 40pc since June, reaching $5 a bushel. This was first blamed on lower U.S. crop yields due to bad weather, but China has since revealed that it imported a record 432,000 tonnes in August,” the newspaper writes.

“Wheat prices are still far below the $13 peak they reached then, and the global stocks to use ratio is still ‘safe’ at 22pc” (Evans-Pritchard, 9/22).