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UN warns of likely food crisis next year for world’s poor

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warns in a new report that next year could see a rise in food prices, especially imperiling the world’s poor. The report predicts that food prices will jump 11% for the world’s poorest nations and 20% for low-income food-deficit countries. Already, the UN estimates that 1 billion people in the world suffer from hunger, the highest number in history.

The predicted crisis, which the report warns could rival the 2007-2008 global food crisis, is based on cereal stocks falling by 6% due to poor harvests driven by “weather events”, including the unprecedented heatwave and drought in Russia over the summer. The extreme weather devastated much of Russia’s wheat harvest, causing the nation to put a rare ban on exporting wheat.

“Adverse weather effects are undoubtedly a primary driver of wheat production shortfalls and, with climate change, may increasingly be so,” the report reads, adding that the rust fungi is another threat.

Already, many foods have seen prices rise: butter has reached an all time high, sugar and cassava are at 30-year highs, while wheat and maize have jumped 40% this year. The report states that both poor crops and a weakening US dollar have played a role in food price inflation.

The FAO calls for expansion of crops to meet growing demand: “For major cereals, production must expand substantially to meet utilization and to reconstitute world reserves, and farmers are likely to respond to the prevailing prices by expanding plantings. Cereals however may not be the only crops farmers will be trying to produce more of, as rising prices have also made other commodities attractive to grow, from soybeans to sugar and cotton.”

However, optimism is not high that the next global crop will by a bumper one.

Price surges in food staples spurred the global food crisis of 2007-2008, which spurred unrest, protests, and food riots in dozens of countries.

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