Horn of Africa hit by global food factors, says World Bank

 

A VOLATILE global food supply is deepening the humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn of Africa, the World Bank warns in a new report.

Shortages and near-historic prices for staples such as corn, wheat and sugar have magnified the impact of the drought ravaging the Horn of Africa, the Food Price Watch report said.

“While the emergency in the Horn of Africa was triggered by prolonged droughts, especially in areas struggling with conflict and internal displacement such as Somalia, food prices that are near the record high levels seen in 2008 also contributed to the situation,” the bank said.

More than 12 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, the report said. In some areas of Somalia, more than 40 per cent of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The report also warned that production of biofuels – specifically America’s production of corn ethanol – was contributing to rising food prices.

In global terms, food prices last month were on average 33 per cent higher than a year ago, the report warned. Corn has risen by 84 per cent, sugar 62 per cent and wheat 55 per cent.

But the price rises were particularly severe in Africa. Corn prices doubled in Kampala, Mogadishu and Kigali over the last year, the report said. Sorghum prices have increased more than fourfold, 240 per cent, over the last year in parts of Somalia, the report said.

It blamed the soaring prices on poor local harvests and shrinking global food stocks.

The report said corn stocks were at their lowest levels since the 1970s, creating a situation in which “even small shortfalls in yields can have an amplified effect on prices.”

US production of corn ethanol – which the report said rose by 8 per cent in the first three months of this year – was also eating into supplies.

“Another factor that adds to the potential upward pressure on the price of corn is the diversion into the production of biofuels,” the report said.

Aid organisations have also connected rising food prices to the use of food crops for energy.

Some prices had fallen back slightly since last February, but the bank warned the volatility still left the most vulnerable populations, in the Horn of Africa, dangerously exposed.

“Persistently high food prices and low food stocks indicate that we’re still in the danger zone,” the bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, said. – ( Guardianservice)