High and volatile food prices are here to stay

“Measures to regulate commodity markets, stem the diversion of food into biofuels, and scale up food reserves in poor countries are essential." - Mark Fried

June 7, 2011

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced that cereal prices are 69 percent higher than a year ago and that high and volatile agricultural commodity prices are likely to prevail for the rest of this year and into 2012.

"Rising food prices are very bad news for the world's poorest people,” said Mark Fried, policy coordinator for Oxfam Canada. “They spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. Prices have been rising month after month, with no end in sight."

Oxfam called on G20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in France at the end of June to take urgent steps to rein in food prices. “Measures to regulate commodity markets, stem the diversion of food into biofuels, and scale up food reserves in poor countries are essential,” Fried said.

The FAO also reported that despite record harvests, food supply is expected only to barely meet demand this year, putting added pressure on prices. Recently published research by Oxfam shows that global food prices could more than double in the next 20 years unless governments act now.

Fried said: "Canada wisely broke with the do-nothing policies of the last few years when it began putting significant aid money into helping small-scale farmers, many of them women. The 500 million smallholders in developing countries offer the greatest potential for increasing global food production.

“Sadly, it will take several years for such investment to pay off. Canada also needs to help build countries’ capacity to respond to food emergencies, which are bound to become more frequent and severe. The G20 proposal to help poor countries scale up their food reserves is something Canada ought to champion.”

Oxfam's global Grow Campaign is calling for a transformation in the way we grow and share food so that everyone always has enough to eat. For more information please visit www.oxfam.ca/grow.

Latest data on global food prices is available on the FAO website at: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/wfs-home/foodpricesindex/en/