Batswana face the highest risk of malnutrition in the world, a Food and Agricultural Organization global assessment report has revealed.
The projection of Botswana’s situation is reported to be worse than that of Ethiopia were pictures of children dying of starvation shocked the world a few years ago, war torn Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and inflation hit Zimbabwe.
At the top of the list of 22 endangered populations mentioned in the report are the people of Eritrea, Niger, the Comoros, Botswana, Haiti and Liberia. They are followed in order of severity by Burundi, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Zambia, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Malawi, Cambodia, North Korea, Rwanda and Kenya.
In their latest annual assessment of global agriculture, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said uncertain weather, rising demand in developing countries, and the increased use of grains for biofuel will probably keep food prices higher than average over the next 10 years and make it harder for the world’s poorest countries to feed themselves.
The report outlined the effect rising food prices have had in the last year, jumping more than 20 percent in China, Kenya, and Sri Lanka; more than 18 percent in Botswana and Pakistan; and from 11 percent to 14 percent in Indonesia, South Africa, Egypt, Haiti, and Bangladesh.
But, for a variety of reasons, the agencies said that high food prices are probably here to stay: Between 2008 and 2017, beef and pork are likely to cost about 20 percent more than they did between 1998 and 2007; milk, wheat, and corn are expected to cost as much as 60 percent more; vegetable oils as much as 80 percent more.
As the balance between the global demand and supply of food becomes tighter, the effect on prices “will differ across commodities.” The higher nominal cost of staples, meanwhile, will lead to “increased vulnerability” for the world’s poorest, the report concluded.
“There is strong reason to believe that there are now also permanent factors underpinning prices that will work to keep them both at higher average levels than in the past and reduce the long-term decline in real terms,” the 72-page report said. “For the Least Developed Countries . . . the projections thus show greatly increased vulnerability and uncertain food supplies during an era of high commodity prices and high price volatility.”
The report forecasts alarming trends in price rise over the next decade as compared to the last ten years The causes cited are poor harvests, notably in countries such as Australia; grains diverted to biofuel; financial investor flows in food commodity futures markets and high oil prices that raise production and freight costs.
Such increased prices would have alarming consequences, especially among the populations of poorer countries where a larger proportion of a household’s income goes towards meeting food expenses.
In Rome, the FAO listed 22 countries, most of them in Africa, which had high levels of “chronic hunger” and were “especially vulnerable” to rising food and fuel prices.
The OECD-FAO report said hundreds of millions of people were already going hungry before the price increases but that “the numbers of people suffering from extreme hunger have (now) increased even further.
“In the short term, humanitarian aid for the populations in countries most severely affected is urgently required,” the report said.
Food prices and their impact on the world economy will be one of the issues that will be addressed at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris on 4-5 June 2008. At a separate summit at FAO headquarters in Rome, on 3-5 June, world leaders, including many Heads of State and Government from around the world, will discuss policies and strategies on how to improve and ensure world food security and re-launch agriculture in rural communities of developing countries.