FAO reports that the world’s most disadvantaged people are now paying much more for less food.
That’s according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which warned on Thursday that the situation could signal the end of some countries’ resilience to increased costs.
Farmers’ rising fixed expenses for so-called “agricultural inputs” like fertilizer and fuel are expected to be to blame for this year’s higher-than-ever global food import bill.
“In light of surging input prices, weather worries, and increased market uncertainty resulting from the Ukraine conflict, FAO’s newest estimates point to a possible tightening of food markets and food import bills hitting a new record high,” said FAO economist Upali Galketi Aratchilage.
The UN agency highlighted in its latest Food Outlook report that all but $2 billion of the additional $51 billion that would be spent globally on edible imports this year is due to increasing pricing.
Animal fats and vegetable oils will be the single largest contribution to increasing import bills this year, “though cereals are not far behind for industrialized nations,” according to FAO.
“Developing countries as a whole are cutting imports of cereals, oilseeds, and meat, indicating their inability to cover price increases.”
FAO estimates that among the most vulnerable nations, Least Developed Countries will have little choice but to spend 5% less on food imports this year.
Sub-Saharan African countries and other nations that import more food than they export are likely to face cost increases, resulting in decreased supplies of key staples.
“These are concerning indicators from the standpoint of food security,” stated FAO, which also warned that “importers will find it difficult to fund rising foreign expenses,” which might potentially break them.
The UN agency has advocated the establishment of a balance-of-payment support system to help prevent further food insecurity among low-income countries and to ensure food imports.
The decline of cereals
Other important findings from the FAO research indicated that global cereal production would fall in 2022 for the first time in four years.
This is not predicted to have an effect on human cereal consumption, but rather on the amount of wheat, coarse grains, and rice used in animal feed.
World wheat stocks are expected to rise “marginally” in 2022, thanks primarily to bigger reserves in China, Russia, and Ukraine.
Maize harvests and demand are expected to reach new highs, owing to increased ethanol production in Brazil and the United States, as well as industrial starch manufacturing in China.
Despite planned demand rationing, global consumption of vegetable oils is expected to outstrip production, according to FAO.
Although meat production in Argentina, the European Union (EU), and the United States is predicted to fall, global exports are expected to rise by 1.4 percent, spurred by an eight percent increase in pork production in China.
World milk production is expected to grow more slowly in 2022 than in prior years, owing to smaller dairy herds and weaker profit margins in several main producing regions.
After three years of decline, global sugar output is predicted to rise, led by gains in India, Thailand, and the EU.
Finally, aquaculture production is expected to grow by 2.9 percent, while commercial fishing is expected to grow by only 0.2 percent. Total export earnings from fisheries and aquaculture is expected to rise by 2.8%, reflecting increased fish prices, while volumes are expected to fall by 1.9%.