A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) states that developed countries must step up international agricultural research in order to help the world's poor and curb rising food prices.
Joachim von Braun, lead author of the report and director general of IFPRI, presented the analysis at the annual general meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Beijing, China, on 4 December.
'As the world food situation is rapidly defined by new driving forces, including income growth, climate change, and increased production of biofuels, the global community must give renewed attention to the role of agriculture, nutrition, and health in development policy,' said Mr van Braun, stressing that a clearer picture of the impact of biofuels and the threat posed by climate change was needed.
According to the report, the world's average food price has risen by 53% since 2000. And this might only be the tip of the iceberg: A computer model simulating the possible price of biofuels showed that maize prices will increase by a further 26% and oilseed prices by 18% by 2020, if biofuel investment and expansion plans are carried through. A second scenario states that, if production of biofuels goes beyond current plans, the effect will be even more drastic: a price rise of 72% for maize and 44% for oilseeds, leading to a decrease in food availability and calorie consumption in all regions of the world, but affecting Sub-Saharan Africa worst of all.
In the case of cereals, the report predicts a price increase of 10% to 20% by 2015, causing the worst suffering in Africa and China, as they are net importers of cereals, meaning that they spend more money on buying than selling cereal. India, on the other hand, would benefit from rising prices for cereals as it is a net exporter.
'Food prices have been steadily decreasing since the Green Revolution, but the days of falling food prices may be over,' Mr von Braun explained. 'Surging demand for feed, food and fuel have recently led to drastic price increases, which are not likely to fall in the foreseeable future, due to low stocks and slow-growing supplies of agricultural outputs. Climate change will also have a negative impact on food production, compounding the challenge of meeting global food demand, and potentially exacerbating hunger and malnutrition among the world's poorest people. Economic growth has helped to reduce hunger, particularly when it is equitable. But unfortunately, growth does not always reach the poorest people.'
In order to counter the effects, the report calls for the CGIAR, as well as national research systems, to invest in agricultural science and technology, so as to facilitate stronger global production. In addition, developed countries should work on eliminating trade barriers and making market access easier for developing countries. 'A world confronted with more scarcity of food needs to trade more, not less to spread opportunities fairly.'
The IFPRI was founded in 1975 with the aim of developing policy solutions for meeting the food needs of the developing world in a sustainable way and strengthening links between research and policymaking. Most of its funding comes from national governments all over the world, private foundations, and international and regional organisations in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), of which the European Commission is the second largest multilateral investor after the World Bank. The IFPRI is one of 15 CGIAR research centres.
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), SciDevNet
Based on information from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and SciDevNet
Agriculture; Coordination, Cooperation; Food; Policies; Scientific Research; Sustainable development