By Adedapo Adesanya
Global food prices retreated slightly from their all-time high range since 1990 in April 2022, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 158.5 points in April 2022, down 1.2 points (0.8 per cent) from the all-time high reached in March, though still 36.4 points (29.8 per cent) above its value in the corresponding month last year.
The drop in the FFPI in April was led by a significant downturn in the vegetable oil sub-index, along with a slight decline in the cereal price sub-index.
Meanwhile, sugar, meat and dairy price sub-indices sustained moderate increases.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 169.5 points in April, down 0.7 points (0.4 per cent) from the record high reached in March (since 1990). After surging to a record level in March, international coarse grain prices dropped by 1.8 per cent in April, led by a 3.0 per cent decline in maize prices, as seasonal supplies from ongoing harvests in Argentina and Brazil helped ease the pressure on markets.
World sorghum prices also declined in April by 0.4 per cent, while tight supplies pushed barley prices up by 2.5 per cent. International wheat prices edged upwards in April, albeit marginally, gaining 0.2 per cent.
Continued blockage of ports in Ukraine and concerns over 2022 crop conditions in the United States of America kept prices elevated, but the price increases were moderated by larger shipments from India, higher-than-expected exports from the Russian Federation and slightly dampened global demand as a result of high prices.
International rice prices in April went up 2.3 per cent from their March levels, sustained by a combination of strong local demand from various Asian exporters, purchases by Near Eastern and Chinese buyers and weather setbacks in the Americas.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 237.5 points in April, shedding 14.3 points (5.7 per cent) from the record high registered in March, but remaining markedly above its year-earlier level.
The decline was driven by lower world prices of palm, sunflower and soy oils, which more than offset higher rapeseed oil quotations. International palm oil prices dropped moderately in April, mainly weighed by subdued global import purchases amid high costs as well as a weakening demand outlook in China.
Nevertheless, uncertainties about export availabilities out of Indonesia, the world’s leading palm oil exporter, contained further declines in international prices. In the meantime, world sunflower and soy oil prices also fell month-on-month, largely tied to demand-rationing following the record high prices seen lately. By contrast, rapeseed oil prices stayed firm in April, sustained by lingering global supply tightness.
The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 147.1 points in April, up 1.3 points (0.9 per cent) from March, marking the eighth consecutive monthly increase and lifting the index 28.0 points (23.5 per cent) above its value a year ago.
In April, the upward trend of dairy product prices continued, driven by the persistent global supply tightness, as milk output in Western Europe and Oceania continued to track below their seasonal levels.
International quotations for butter rose the most, reflecting tight supplies, including low inventories, especially in Western Europe, amidst a surge in demand for near-term deliveries, partly induced by the current shortage of sunflower oil and margarine.
Despite a decline in foreign purchases, sustained internal demand and low inventories in Europe provided support to world skim milk powder and cheese prices. By contrast, whole milk prices fell moderately, mainly due to a demand slowdown in China.
The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 121.9 points in April, up 2.7 points (2.2 per cent) from March and setting a new record high. The continued price strength stemmed from higher world poultry, pig and bovine meat prices.
The poultry meat price increase was driven by solid demand amidst tight global supplies, reflecting disruptions to exports from Ukraine and rising avian influenza outbreaks in the Northern hemisphere. Meanwhile, pig meat prices rose further, although less steeply than in March, on the prolonged low supply of slaughtered pigs in Western Europe and high internal demand in large producing countries.
World bovine meat prices increased moderately, reflecting high export volumes from Brazil, despite the low slaughter cattle supply. With this increase, bovine meat prices reached a new record high. Regarding ovine meat, the pandemic-related lockdowns and port delays in China eased the country’s meat purchases, pushing prices marginally lower.
The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 121.8 points in April, up 3.9 points (3.3 per cent) from March, marking the second consecutive monthly increase and reaching levels more than 20 per cent above those registered in the corresponding month last year.
Higher ethanol prices in Brazil, coupled with the sustained strengthening of the Brazilian Real against the US Dollar, continued to underpin the increase in world sugar prices. Additional support was provided by concerns over the slow start of the 2022 harvest in Brazil.
However, larger-than-previously-anticipated availabilities in India, a major sugar exporter, bolstered the global supply outlook and prevented more substantial price increases.
100 million People Displaced in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Others—UNHCR
By Adedapo Adesanya
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has disclosed that the Ukraine war and other conflicts have forced about 100 million people to flee to safety.
According to UNHCROpens in a new window report, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
So far in 2022, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year and forced around 6 million to leave the nation.
Speaking on this, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Filippo Grandi said, “One hundred million is a stark figure — sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
By calculation, the 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide represents one per cent of the global population and is equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world.
The number includes refugees and asylum seekers as well as the 53.2 million people displaced inside their borders by conflict.
Speaking further, Mr Grandi added, “The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Compassion is alive, and we need a similar mobilization for all crises around the world. But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure.”
He then called for peace and stability to ensure that the number doesn’t grow any further in the coming years.
“To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile.”
Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) informed that a record 59.1 million people were displaced within their homelands last year, four million more than in 2020.
Conflict and violence triggered 14.4 million internal displacements in 2021, a nearly 50 per cent increase over the previous year.
Meanwhile, weather-related events such as floods, storms and cyclones resulted in some 23.7 million internal displacements in 2021, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Russia Reaffirms Readiness to Support Mali
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
After withdrawing from the Joint Military Force of the G5-Sahel group which the United Nations described as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” middle of May, Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, made a snapshot visit, for the second time under the new military administration to Moscow, intended to review various aspects of strategic partnership deals with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We paid special attention to the practical aspects of organizing deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that are so much needed by the people of Mali today in conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with Diop in Moscow.
The sound pace of military and military-technical contacts between the two countries was noted during the talks, according to Lavrov, and thanked his Malian counterpart for support for Russia’s resolutions at the latest session of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov made to explicit reference to the meeting of the UN Security Council the Western countries that consistently tried to “put their blame at Russia’s door” and to shirk responsibility for the food crisis.
“It goes without saying that we discussed the situation in Ukraine and around it, including the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to world food security issues, where the Western countries tried to put their own blame at somebody else’s door. They argued that the crisis, which by and large is a result of their own efforts, allegedly stems from the crisis in Ukraine. Of course, they blamed it entirely on Russia,” Lavrov said.
Russia reaffirms its readiness to render Mali support in raising the fighting efficiency of its armed forces. “We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to further contribute to normalizing the situation in Mali, render Bamako comprehensive support on a bilateral basis, in particular, in the sphere of raising the combat efficiency of the Malian armed forces, training troops and law-enforcement personnel,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
France’s decision together with Western allies to end the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the European special forces mission Takuba does not contribute to restoring security in Mali and the entire Sahel region. Reports say France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
With the final exit and the vacuum created by France, Russia now sees Mali as an excellent conduit to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
“There is an obvious danger of the emergence of enclaves of power vacuum where militants of various outlawed armed gangs will feel free at hand and they have already prepared for such acts. This threatens the country’s territorial integrity and we repeatedly told our French counterparts about that,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
On March 2 at the United Nations General Assembly, African representatives and their votes were considered very interesting, and have geopolitical implications for study and analysis. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour. Mali was among those that abstained from vote. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. It opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive.
“All our initiatives were supported by Mali. We agreed to enhance coordination on the UN platform and in other international organizations. We are determined to work for this in earnest, including in the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations,” Lavrov assured.
During his first official visit in November 2021 to Moscow, Abdoulaye Diop and Sergei Lavrov, in fact, focused on increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors. But particularly significant was Russia’s military assistance to strengthen the position of the new military government and to fight rising terrorism in the Sahel region.
As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation there as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in Mali.
Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab. Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections in February 2022.
The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have requested a quick transition to a civilian government. They further urged that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in the Republic of Mali in West Africa.
Moscow is still planning to hold the second Russia-African summit. The “special military operation” approved by both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has pushed the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.
AfDB Board Okays $1.5bn to Avert Food Crisis in Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Groups (AfDB) on Friday approved a $1.5 billion facility to help African countries avert a looming food crisis.
With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.
The Abidjan-based bank, among other institutions, has disclosed that African farmers urgently need high-quality seeds and inputs before the planting season begins in May to immediately boost food supplies.
The Abidjan based bank’s $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility is an unprecedented comprehensive initiative to support smallholder farmers in filling the food shortfall. It will provide 20 million African smallholder farmers with certified seeds.
Also, it will increase access to agricultural fertilizers and enable them to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food, which is about a $12 billion increase in food production in just two years.
The President of AfDB Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, said: “Food aid cannot feed Africa. Africa does not need bowls in hand. Africa needs seeds in the ground, and mechanical harvesters to harvest bountiful food produced locally. Africa will feed itself with pride for there is no dignity in begging for food.”
Also, the Vice President of AfDB for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Ms Beth Dunford, said, “The Africa Emergency Food Production Facility builds on lessons learned from the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 programme. That programme has provided a strategic roadmap to support Africa’s agriculture sector and safeguard food security against the pandemic’s impact.”
The facility has benefited from stakeholder consultations, including those with fertilizer producers and separately with African Union agriculture and finance ministers earlier this month.
The ministers agreed to implement reforms to address the systemic hurdles that prevent modern input markets from performing effectively.
The bank’s $1.5 billion strategies will lead to the production of 11 million tons of wheat; 18 million tons of maize; 6 million tons of rice; and 2.5 million tons of soybeans.
The plan is to provide 20 million farmers with certified seeds, fertilizer, and extension services. It will also support market growth and post-harvest management.
Also, the bank will provide fertilizer to smallholder farmers across Africa over the next four farming seasons, using its convening influence with major fertilizer manufacturers, loan guarantees, and other financial instruments.
The facility will also create a platform to advocate for critical policy reforms to solve the structural issues that impede farmers from receiving modern inputs. This includes strengthening national institutions overseeing input markets.
It has a structure for working with multilateral development partners. This will ensure rapid alignment and implementation, enhanced reach, and effective impact and will increase technical preparedness and responsiveness.
In addition, it includes short, medium, and long-term measures to address both the urgent food crisis and the long-term sustainability and resilience of Africa’s food systems.
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