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World’s poor paying more for less food, says UN

A woman and her baby wait to eat breakfast in the Ticlio Chico area where residents pool their money to cook and serve food in Lima. (AP pic)

PARIS: Poor countries are expected to suffer the most from worldwide food crises exacerbated by the war in Ukraine as they will be forced to pay more for less food, the United Nations warned today.

The global food import bill was on course to hit a new record of US$1.8 trillion this year as the Ukraine conflict pushes up cereal and grain prices.

But it was higher prices and transport costs rather than volumes that would account for the bulk of the expected increase, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) wrote in its latest Food Outlook.

“Worryingly, many vulnerable countries are paying more but receiving less food,” the report said.

The FAO calculated that the global food import bill was projected to rise by US$51 billion from 2021, of which US$49 billion reflected higher prices.

The least developed countries were anticipated to see a 5% contraction in their food import bill this year.

But sub-Saharan Africa and net food-importing developing countries were “expected to register an increase in total costs, despite a reduction in imported volumes”, the agency said.

World production of major cereals was expected to decline in 2022 for the first time in four years, while global utilisation was also seen down for the first time in 20 years, the FAO said.

Amid soaring input prices, weather concerns and increased market uncertainties stemming from the Ukraine war, the forecasts “point to a likely tightening of food markets and food import bills reaching a new record high”, said FAO economist Upali Galketi Aratchilage.

“These are alarming signs from a food security perspective, indicating that importers will find it difficult to finance rising international costs, potentially heralding an end of their resilience to higher prices.”