SA govt worried about food prices


Food prices on international markets are rising again, three years after the food and global economic meltdown, says Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

“There is no doubt that rising food prices are always a concern due to their potential for diminishing the food security of the poor as well as their potential for creating political instability as seen during 2008 in many countries,” she told delegates at the G20 Agriculture Ministers gathering in Paris on Thursday.

Joemat-Pettersson said in South Africa and the rest of Africa, price volatility hits poor people the hardest, as they already spend the majority of their income on feeding their families, the state BuaNews agency reports.

The World Bank’s food price index increased by 15 percent between October 2010 and January 2011 and is only three percent below its 2008 peak. According to the World Food Programme, rising prices have pushed 44 million people into extreme poverty and hunger since June 2010.

In a number of African countries, food inflation continues to be higher than headline CPI inflation.

However, factors that cause food prices to rise include high energy prices; adverse weather conditions such as floods, drought and fires; the demand for feedstock in biofuel plants and the demand for animal feed; and exchange rate volatility.

The minister said the frequency of extreme weather-related events over the past year and their impact on food prices underscores the vulnerability of the poor to climate change. There is also consensus in Africa and the rest of the world about the patterns in world food prices that current price increases are not typical of past increases because food prices are rising at an unusually rapid rate.

The breadth of products affected is much greater, as nearly all major food and feed prices are rising as well as fuel, transport, manufactured goods and fertilisers. Joemat-Pettersson said the African continent needs the developed world to see it as a strategic partner. “In this regard, I can argue that Africa’s prosperity would mean global peace; that peace would propagate itself through decline in numbers of Africans asylum seekers in Europe. A vibrant and stable Africa would present business opportunities to developed countries,” she said.

She added that Africa continued to need developed countries’ food aid, but that a bigger proportion of this food aid could be sourced from other African countries.
“This would eliminate the perception that Africa is treated as a dumping ground by the developed world.” The minister said developed country donors need to strengthen their commitment by developing coordinated support and investment plans that reflect the priorities of the African Union and African governments.
“Africa needs the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe and in that, Europe has to consider with sensitivity some of the proposals put by African governments in pursuit of their agendas,” she said.