ROME, Oct 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Falling food
prices may be good news for millions of urban poor but not for
small-scale farmers who will struggle to feed their families
without help and incentives, such as an end to export subsidies,
said the Food and Agriculture Organization on Monday.
Prices for the main food crops, livestock and fish products
all fell in 2015, signalling the likely end to an era of high
prices, according to FAO, a U.N. agency.
The lower food prices, which are expected to continue for
several years, mean poor families who are not farmers can afford
more nutritious meals, FAO director-general Jose Graziano da
Silva told agriculture and trade ministers at FAO's headquarters
in Rome on Monday.
"You are confronted by the challenge of keeping nutritious
food affordable for the poor, while ensuring good incentives for
producers, including family farmers," Graziano da Silva said at
the high-level meeting on agricultural commodity prices.
"Low food prices reduce the incomes of farmers, especially
poor family farmers who produce staple food in developing
countries," he said.
"This cut in the flow of cash into rural communities also
reduces the incentives for new investments in production,
infrastructure and services," he added.
One way to help small farmers cope with falling commodity
prices is to end agricultural export subsidies that affect
prices in global markets, Graziano da Silva said.
Last December, countries in the 164-member World Trade
Organization (WTO) agreed to end these subsidies - developed
countries immediately and developing countries by the end of
The decision will "help level the playing field in
agriculture markets, to the benefit of farmers and exporters in
developing and least-developed countries," WTO director-general
Roberto Azevedo told the meeting in Rome.
Social protection programmes and schemes like food vouchers,
are also essential ways to boost farmers' incomes while making
food affordable for other poor families, Graziano da Silva said.
A series of price surges between 2008 and 2012 and
volatility in food markets sparked food riots or unrest in parts
of Africa, South America, South Asia and the Middle East.
Prices have since become less volatile and are now steadily
declining, following strong harvests, global economic slowdown
and falling oil prices, but they remain higher than in the
1990s, according to a joint OECD/FAO report.
In the next decade, the growth in demand for food is likely
to slow, as population growth falls and incomes rise slowly, the
Agricultural Outlook report said.
People in both developed and developing countries are
expected to eat more processed food, so the demand for sugar,
oils and fat is likely to rise faster than staples and protein.
However, climate change is likely to cause some abrupt price
surges over the next decade, it said.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)