Global food situation not at crisis level: expert
Updated: 2012-10-19 21:46
By ZHOU WA (chinadaily.com.cn)
Rising food prices do not necessarily mean that a food crisis will occur, but governments around the world should carefully monitor the situation and be prepared, a World Food Program official has said.
Gian Carlo Cirri, a School Feeding Service expert from the Policy, Planning and Strategy Division of the WFP, gave an exclusive interview to China Daily before attending the 2012 International Conference on Child Development in Beijing on Oct 18 and 19.
There are pessimistic predictions of a food crisis in the future, but the situation is not at the level of crisis, said Cirri. Conditions are not the same as they were during the crisis period during 2007 and 2008, he said.
Global food prices remain high these days, and volatile, and the drought in the United States resulted in sharp increases in maize, wheat and soya bean prices. But rice prices remain stable, and other conditions make the situation fundamentally different from previous crises, he said.
In 2008, several major food-producing countries imposed export bans, which caused shortages on world markets. And, in countries where there were food deficits, panic-buying occurred, with governments paying very high prices, especially for rice.
Besides, better tools exist at present at international level to coordinate the policy response to deal with possible food shortages.
For example, in 2011 the G20 set up the Agricultural Market Information System, which tracks food commodity markets and aims to improve transparency and act as an early warning system.
The FAO Food Price Index rose slightly in September following two months of stability, rising three points, up to 216. The figure is still well below the index peak of 238 points reached in February 2011, however. Prices saw a spike in July, mostly driven by a sharp increase in the prices of maize and wheat.
Asked what the WFP can contribute to solving the problems, Cirri said that they will continue to monitor food prices around the world and ask governments to get ready for the possible challenges in case of a real food crisis.
"One of the ways to get ready is to beef up the social protection and safety nets in general, and to be ready to transfer aids directly to the poor families, if the food price shock really happens," he said.
Therefore, the school feeding program, which has built distribution channels of nutritious food to poor children in remote areas, is a very useful way to address the price shock and protect those poor families, he added.
WFP school meals can take the form of a mid-morning snack or a nutritious breakfast of porridge. WFP uses fortified food to ensure that children get the micronutrients they need.
China's own school feeding program is the world's third-largest, following India and Brazil, according to Carmen Burbano, a WFP expert.
She said she was impressed by China's program after visiting some sites.