Food emergencies continue in 32 countries despite supply rise

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High food prices persist in developing countries despite an improved global cereal supply and a sharp decline in international food prices, the United Nations agricultural agency warns in a report released overnight.
“This is creating further hardship for millions of poor people already suffering from hunger and undernourishment,” says the latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The food crisis of last year has not ended in developing countries as cereal prices in most remain generally very high, in some cases at record levels, FAO said. Worst affected are the urban poor and food-deficit farmers who are dependent on the market to access food, the UN News Service adds. 
An analysis of domestic food prices for 58 developing countries shows that in around 80% of the cases food prices are higher than 12 months ago, and in around 40% higher than three months ago. In 17% of the cases, the latest price quotations are the highest on record.
The situation is most dramatic in sub-Saharan Africa. Domestic prices of rice are much higher than 12 months earlier in all countries analyzed, while prices of maize, millet and sorghum are higher in 89% of the countries compared to a year earlier.
Food prices remain at high levels in other regions as well, particularly in Asia for rice and in Central and South America for maize and wheat.
Moreover, the global economic recession is drying up remittances from family members working abroad that often sustain the food consumption levels of vulnerable households.
This year’s world cereal production is forecast to decline by 3% from the 2008 record, but it would still be the second largest crop ever, according to FAO’s first 2009 forecast.
Most of the decrease is expected to be in wheat, mainly due to a significant reduction in plantings in developed countries in response to lower international prices.
In developing countries, cereal output could remain close to last year’s good level, the agency said.