Thursday, June 9, 2022 10:19 pm
File copy: Nigerian foodstuffs on display in a market<[/caption] By Cecilia Ologunagba UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the global food import bill is on course to hit a new record of 1.8 trillion dollars in 2022. The UN food agency stated this in its latest Food Outlook report released on Thursday. According to the agency, countries are expected to spend a staggering 1.8 trillion dollars importing food they need this year; a new world record but worryingly, it’s going to buy them less food. FAO explained that the development suggested that for some countries, the situation potentially heralded “an end of their resilience to higher prices.” Ever-higher fixed costs for farmers of so-called “agricultural inputs” such as fertiliser and fuel, are likely to be responsible for this year’s bigger-than-ever global food import bill. “In view of the soaring input prices, concerns about the weather, and increased market uncertainties stemming from the war in Ukraine, FAO’s latest forecasts point to a likely tightening of food markets. “It points to likely tightening of food markets and food import bills reaching a new record high,” FAO economist, Upali Galketi Aratchilage, said. The UN agency explained that all but two billion dollars of the additional 51 billion dollars that’s going to be spent worldwide on edible imports in 2022 was owing to higher prices. The FAO economist said animal fats and vegetable oils would be the single biggest contributor to higher import bills, noting that although cereals were not far behind for developed countries. “Developing countries, as a whole, are reducing imports of cereals, oilseeds and meat, which reflects their incapacity to cover the increase in prices,” said Aratchilage. Among the most vulnerable nations, FAO estimated that Least Developed Countries would have little option but to spend five per cent less importing food this year. Sub-Saharan African States and other nations that buy more food than they export are likely to face an increase in costs, for which they’ll get lower amounts of essential foodstuffs. “These are alarming signs from a food security perspective,” FAO said, warning that importers would find it difficult to finance rising international costs and that these could, potentially, break them. To help avert even greater food insecurity among low-income nations and to guarantee food imports, the UN agency has recommended the creation of a balance-of-payment support mechanism. Other key findings from the FAO report pointed to a decline in global cereal production in 2022 for the first time in four years. This is not expected to impact on human consumption of cereals, however, but rather on the lower amount of wheat, coarse grains and rice that are used in animal feed. World wheat stocks are set to increase “marginally” in 2022, mostly owing to anticipated larger reserves in China, Russia and Ukraine. Word maize harvests and demand will likely hit a new high, which is associated with greater ethanol production in Brazil and the U.S., as well as industrial starch production in China.