Food prices must drop in Africa: How can this be achieved?

By Thomas Allen, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

After the 2007-08 crisis, we got into the bad habit when discussing food prices of focusing almost exclusively on volatility and overlooking the question of the level of prices. Of course, reasons were good for this; between February 2007 and February 2008, world food prices jumped 60%. These increases combined with local factors had dramatic effects, particularly in West Africa, where millions of households already had insufficient income to cover their basic nutritional needs. Today, according to OECD and FAO projections, food prices are expected to remain stable in the medium-term. This is a good time to re-examine some important questions.

Are food products cheap in sub-Saharan Africa?

The question may seem surprising, as food is no doubt cheaper in the poorest countries. This is the first thing that any tourist would tell you, and it is confirmed by statistics. Sub-Saharan countries do indeed have the lowest prices in absolute terms (see figure). African food products are therefore much more affordable…for the European consumer. What about for the African consumer? Continue reading

Are we ready to prevent the next food price crisis?

By Denis Drechsler, Project Manager, Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

food-crisisWhen prices of staple food crops soared in international markets in 2007-10, it was a wakeup call for many world leaders to take action. In view of millions of families being pushed into hunger, the G20 decided to create the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to combat excessive volatility by enhancing transparency and policy co-ordination in international food markets.

Since its launch in 2011, AMIS has provided more reliable and timely assessments of global food supplies by working closely with the main trading countries of staple food crops. This has created a more level playing field for all market actors to make informed decisions. Even more important have been achievements in the area of policy dialogue. When maize prices spiked in 2012, for example, regular exchanges among the key producing countries helped avoid a repeat of hasty policy action, such as export bans that had exacerbated market turbulences in the past. Through AMIS, it seems, the world is better prepared to minimise the risk of future food price crises.

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