Wheat, oil, meat… Prices are exploding and famine threatens

April 25, 2022 at 2:27 p.m.,

Reading time: 4 minutes


The price of the most common food products has never been so high since the creation in 1990 of the index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (CAM). This index calculates the prices of a basket of basic food products each month. In March, it was 159.3, an increase of 12.6 % compared to February. This increase is notably due to the considerable increase in the price of vegetable and cereal oils since last month. Meat, sugar and dairy products are also increasingly expensive.

The situation has been tense since 2020, indicates to Reporterre Christophe Gouel, researcher at the National Institute for Agricultural Research (Inrae). Food stocks were already very low due to a succession of climatic events which had an impact on harvests, large stocks made by China to prevent a period of swine fever and a context tense policy with Taiwan »summarizes the specialist of the role of stocks in price volatility.

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has made the situation worse. So much so that we can fear the rise of hunger in the world, according to Michael Fakhri, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food. Russia and Ukraine indeed weigh 30 % of world wheat exports — war-damaged exports.

43 million people will face acute food insecurity in the Sahel

According to the World Food Program (WFP), 43 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity in the Sahel region by June. This finding echoes the report sahel » published in February by the organization Action Against Hunger (ACF). It calculates that nearly 35 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad, countries that make up the Sahelian region of Africa […] will have practically nothing to eat [et] will be in a situation of food insecurity and undernourishment, […] between june and august ». The Maghreb will also suffer from the situation, says Reporterre Thomas Ribémont, honorary president of theNGO Action against Hunger. And in particular Egypt, territory composed of about 4 % of land that is cultivable and completely dependent on imports »Algeria and Tunisia. In addition to a risk of food crisis, there is a political risk, as in 2011 with the Arab spring which started with a revolt linked to the increase in the price of bread »he adds.

The Arab Spring started with a revolt linked to the price of bread »

the WFP calls for urgent international aid of 951 million dollars (880 million euros). According to the Regional Director for West Africa, Chris Nikoi, this life-saving emergency assistance must be accompanied by longer-term interventions that strengthen national systems and community resilience, to reduce humanitarian needs over time and pave the way for durable solutions to the hunger and malnutrition ».

Reduce animal feed and biofuels

Hunger, often seen as a natural determinism, is a political phenomenon » explains Thomas Ribémont. To cushion the global food crisis looming this year, we should be able to anticipate it, in order to strengthen aid in the territories concernedhe continues. Governments and international organizations must assume their responsibilities to end conflicts because six out of ten people suffering from hunger in the world live in a conflict zone. It would also be necessary to mobilize for the environment, because in addition to natural disasters, global warming causes famines, massive exoduses of populations as well as political crises. » Furthermore, knowing that 40 % of cereals produced in the world are used to feed livestock, in addition to political solutions, changing consumption habits is necessary ».

Read also: Biofuels singled out for their environmental record

Another solution, advocated by Christophe Gouel: reduce the production of biofuels when the supply of basic foodstuffs is very low, particularly concerning cereals. 14% of vegetable oil production in the world ends up in biodiesel. Biofuel is not so good for the environment and its production helps to maintain high prices of the foodstuffs used »concludes the researcher.

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