Global food security trends: May update

20 May, 2011
A young girl carries her box from a United Nations food distribution. Credit: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi
A young girl carries her box from a United Nations food distribution. Credit: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi

OCHA continues to monitor the humanitarian implications of global food security trends, and supports governments and humanitarian agencies in mitigating the adverse effects of rising prices on the most vulnerable people in the poorest countries.

While international food prices remained stable in April, prices of both wheat and maize have increased sharply, and this will affect the most vulnerable people. "Global food prices are at record new levels. People in the Least Developed Countries face the real prospect of a new crisis in food and nutrition security", said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, at the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries held in Istanbul on 10 May.

In Istanbul, WFP Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla warned: “For families who spend 80 per cent of their income on food, all it takes is one price shock to cast them overnight into the ranks of the hungry. These people are often faced with desperate choices — to feed one person or the other, to forego needed health care, to take girls out of school.”

Rising food prices also impact on humanitarian operations: as WFP warned recently, the basic cost of the food basket has increased in 44 of 63 countries they monitor during the first few months of this year.  

Not all regions though are reporting higher food prices. While many countries, especially in West and Southern Africa, have been showing relatively low grain prices or only typical, seasonal price increases, in Asia food price inflation is having a serious impact on poor families, where food accounts for more than 60 per cent of household budget.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a 10 per cent rise in domestic food prices could push an additional 64 million people in the region – living on just over $1 a day - into poverty. Rising food prices will also further reduce the standard-of-living of families who were already poor.

Governments in Asia have taken a range of short term measures to reduce the impacts of higher food prices on vulnerable populations. However, in the longer term, structural adjustments will be required, including improving agricultural productivity and investing in infrastructure.

Keyword search