An increase in food prices following the coronavirus pandemic has intensified concerns related to global food security. For emerging markets, this has further underlined the importance of regional cooperation and innovative solutions to help overcome the challenges. The Food Price Index, established by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to track monthly changes in international food prices, rose for the eighth consecutive month in January, primarily as a result of COVID-19. The index averaged 113.3 points in January 2021, a 4.3% rise against December and its highest level since July 2014.
COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions and falls in production have brought the question of food security into sharp focus: the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) recently announced it was expecting to aid 138m people this year, the highest number in its 60 years of operation. The WFP estimates that by the end of 2020 there were 272m acutely food insecure people in 79 countries, up from 149m at the end of 2019. The FAO’s latest food price figures will thus have served to intensify consternation among many of the world’s emerging economies. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, there are fears that an increase in rice prices could lead to shortages, as the region imports some 40% of its rice supplies. This figure is even higher in Kenya, which imports around 600,000 tonnes of the 700,000 tonnes of rice consumed in the country each year. The increase in the cost of rice is linked to a 25% rise in the price of corn and soybeans, which is widely used as animal feed. This has caused Asian livestock producers to turn to low-quality rice products as a cheaper alternative, driving up the cost of such products and pricing many African countries – which have traditionally relied on them as primary foodstuffs – out of the market. Oxford Business