The FAO director-general has urged countries to take advantage of the currently calm conditions in food prices to prepare for future market turbulence and find lasting solutions to the issues surrounding food price volatility.
Speaking at a meeting on international food prices attended by 30 agriculture ministers, the FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva warned that the world’s food price problems are not over despite a current market lull.
“The outlook for international food commodity markets finally looks calmer this year,” said da Silva. “Grain production has rebounded and higher stock-to-use ratios should bring greater stability to prices. The FAO Cereal Price Index is 20 percent lower than one year ago."
Despite this current stabilisation, he cautioned against dropping the guard.
“International prices have declined but they are still above their historical levels. And prices are expected to remain volatile over the next years,” warned the FAO chief.
He urged countries to take advantage of the comparative calm to prepare for future market turbulence and find lasting solutions to the issues surrounding food price volatility.
“If higher and volatile prices are here to stay, then we need to adapt to this new pattern,” he underlined.
The FAO chief outlined two critical issues for countries to address are how to help poor small-scale farmers benefit from the higher food prices, and how to protect low-income families who suffer as a result of them, he said.
“The current situation offers an opportunity for farmers to reinvest in agriculture,” said da Silva, who called for new policies to ensure that small-scale farmers have the means to take advantage of the current 'calm' in price volatility.
The director-general also commented that improvements in global governance have played an important role in warding off additional food price spikes since July 2012.
In particular, he noted that the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) created by the G20 in 2011 has proved an effective new weapon in the arsenal to fight against excessive price volatility, providing reliable information and increasing transparency in the international food market.
The FAO meeting also underscored that while lower food prices have brought relief to poor consumers, higher prices are not necessarily all bad news - as they came after three decades of stagnant prices that negatively affected the agricultural sector in many poor countries.