(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Rising food prices cause for concern

[Niger] Woman pounds millet and sorghum in typical Nigerien village, southwest of the country. [Date picture taken: 08/23/2006]
Nicholas Reader/IRIN

Prices of cereals “continue to rise” in West Africa according to a Food Crisis Prevention Network (FCPN) report distributed by the Famine Early Warning System.

“The food and nutritional situation could rapidly deteriorate in some areas of the region especially with the possible early arrival of the lean period if this price hike situation continues” the FCPN briefing note, released on 7 March, said.

Nonetheless for the moment the food situation “seems overall satisfactory,” it added.

In the Sahel region’s cereal producing countries Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, an assessment made by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Afrique Verte in early February confirmed a 25 percent increase in sorghum prices in the Maradi region of Niger, an 18.5 percent price increase for millet and a 20 percent for corn in the capital Niamey.

In Burkina Faso, which was badly affected by floods in 2007 and has this year been roiled by violent protests over high food prices, sacks of corn are selling for double the price they were a year earlier, setting back impoverished Burkinabe 15,000 CFA francs (US$30) a sack compared to 7,500 CFA francs (US$15), according to FCPN.

“Recent assessments indicate that that food and nutritional situation could deteriorate due to a continued rise in food product prices,” FEWSNET warned.

Food riots have also recently taken place in Guinea Conakry, Mauritania and Senegal. Those countries depend heavily on imported wheat and rice which are more affected by high global commodity prices than upheavals in the regional markets.

FCPN recommended governments in the region to not impose restrictive measures on food exports as were attempted in Argentina, Russia, Ukraine and China. “Such a situation could hinder intra-regional trade flows and would thus increase the risk [of] market tensions as well as a food and nutritional crises,” it said.

Instead, governments and NGOs should focus on reconstituting stocks in particular in at-risk zones before the rainy season. “Appropriate operations and/or special campaigns must be organised” FCPN said.

It pointed as a good example, the government of Burkina Faso’s efforts to stabilise prices by subsidising essential goods. “Such operations in at-risk zones must be strengthened,” it said.

Stephanie Savaraud, West Africa spokeswoman for the World Food Programme (WFP) said that school feeding and supplementary feeding would be appropriate responses to help support Burkina Faso, but warned that WFP faces its own funding crunch.

“Rising prices for basic commodities mean WFP needs 30 percent more money this year to feed the same number of beneficiaries,” she said. “If we don’t get that then we will need to give less food to people.”

nr/dh

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