Global food import bill may top $1 trillion in 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rome, Nov 17 (IANS/AKI) The bill for international food imports could exceed $1 trillion this year amid a spike in most commodity prices, the UN said Wednesday.

Food prices could reach even higher levels in 2011, the agency warned.

Food import bills for the worlds poorest countries are predicted to rise 11 percent in 2010 from 2009.

The jump should total 20 percent for so-called low-income food-deficit countries, impoverished nations that import more food than they produce, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said in its latest Food Outlook report.

This year’s $1 trillion import bill could rise further in 2011 unless production of major food crops increased “significantly”, the report warned.

For major cereals, production must expand substantially to meet utilisation and to reconstitute world reserves, and farmers are likely to respond to the prevailing prices by expanding plantings,” it said.

World cereals stocks are anticipated to shrink by seven percent according to FAO, with barley plunging 35 percent, maize 12 percent and wheat 10 percent.

With the pressure on world prices of most commodities not abating, the international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks in 2011, FAO said.

Owing to bad weather, world cereal production is now forecast to contract by two percent rather than expanding by 1.2 percent as predicted in June, said FAO.

The continuing rise in food prices, which reached record levels in 2008, has made soybeans to sugar and cotton attractive crops to grow, as well as cereals, FAO noted.

If farmers fail to boost agricultural output, international prices, especially of maize, soybean, and wheat, but also rice, could increase even more in 2011, FAO warned.

Exporting countries’ economic policies, currency market fluctuations and bad weather had caused most agricultural commodity prices to rise over the last six months, FAO said.


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