Place a finger on the map of Africa and odds are you will fall on a country in need of external assistance for food. Of the 45 countries currently highlighted by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization as being food insecure, three quarters are in Africa: from Burkina Faso through Nigeria to Zimbabwe. In May 2021, the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI), which measures the monthly change in international food commodity prices, rose to its highest level in a decade, higher still than reached during the 2008 commodity crisis. The price index for vegetable oils rose to its highest on record. Grain prices also rose sharply, leading to countries such as Nigeria to release strategic grain reserves. Tight food supplies were compounded by dry weather conditions in countries like Brazil and China which substantially affected exportable surpluses.
Agricultural productivity could improve in the near term as countries exit lockdowns and labour shortages are alleviated. In Africa, the spate of investments targeted at farm productivity should bear fruit in the short-to-medium term.
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