United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO has said that the global food price index fell in June, but added that favourable worldwide conditions for cereal crops would lead to better-than-expected production this growing season at the global level, despite continuing apprehension over El Niño.
In its latest report, the organisation added that concerns are growing over a sharp shortfall in maize grown in sub-Saharan Africa as well as poor production in other food insecure hotspot areas.
According to the monthly FAO Food Price Index, FPI and the new edition of the quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, both issued on Thursday, world cereal production this year should amount to 2, 527 million tonnes.
This, it said represents a 1.1 per cent decline from the record level in 2014, but an improvement from projections made last month.
It said the FPI declined 0.9 per cent in June compared to May, stressing that at 165.1 points, the index is now down 21 per cent compared to a year ago and at its lowest level since September 2009.
FAO further explained that the food price index mainly came as a result of a drop of 6.6 per cent in the price of sugar and of 4.1 per cent in the prices of dairy products, which more than offset a rebound in palm oil and wheat quotations.
It said increasing worldwide demand for livestock feed, especially in Brazil, China and the United States, is supporting prices for coarse grains, including maize.
The report, however, cautioned that those global price trends and favourable prospects for world cereal production mask localized hotspots of food insecurity.
It disclsoed that some 34 countries worldwide, including 28 in Africa hosting large numbers of refugees are in need of external assistance for food.
In Africa, it said the overall 2015 production outlook points to a decline from last year’s high level, with all regions expecting reduced harvests, except Central and North Africa.
Specifically in Southern Africa, it stated that the aggregate cereal production is projected to decrease by 17 per cent, mainly due to irregular seasonal rains and an extended dry spell.
It added that the aggregate maize production, which accounts for the bulk of the subregion’s cereal output, is forecast at 20.6 million tonnes, 26 per cent below the bumper 2014 output.
Accounting for the bulk of the decrease, South Africa’s maize production is estimated at 10.5 million tonnes, a steep 30 per cent reduction versus the high level of last year.
In West Africa, last year’s overall good production in the Sahel region obscures local food security issues, today’s report adds.
The latest estimates put the 2014 aggregate cereal production in the nine Sahelian countries at 21 million tonnes, about 7 per cent higher than the five-year average, thanks to solid outputs in Mali and other coastal countries.
It, however, stated that a significant drop in production has been recorded in large parts of the Sahel belt, notably in the countries located in western parts of the subregion, due to poor weather.
Cereal production there, compared to the five year average, is estimated to have dropped in 2014 by 83 per cent in Cabo Verde, 28 per cent in the Gambia, 33 per cent in Guinea-Bissau and 17 per cent in Senegal. Large areas of Chad, Mauritania and Niger were also affected.
The report in particular highlights “alarming” food security conditions in conflict-affected areas of South Sudan, where the number of severely food insecure people has almost doubled to an estimated 4.6 million since the beginning of 2015.

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