New UN online tool shows food prices in poor countries have yet to fall

19 March 2009

A new online database of staple food prices on national markets in 55 developing countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe shows that local prices have not fallen the way they have at the global level, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

The “National Basic Food Prices Data and Analysis Tool,” developed by FAO as part of its response to high food prices, shows the prices of different food commodities in local currencies or dollars and local measurements as well as standard weights.

The interactive tool allows for price comparisons between domestic and international markets, between different markets in the same country, as well as between countries.

“While food prices have fallen internationally, as indicated by the FAO food price index, this tool shows that in developing countries they have not fallen so fast, or at all,” said Liliana Balbi, a senior economist with FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System.

“The easy-to-use database will be an invaluable source of information for policy and decision-makers in agricultural production and trade, development and also humanitarian work.”

FAO noted that a rise in food prices hits the poor the hardest given that the share of food in their total expenditures is much higher than that of wealthier populations. While food represents about 10-20 per cent of consumer spending in industrialised nations, it can be as much as 60-80 per cent in developing countries.

Depending on available funds, FAO plans to add new countries and series to the database, which has benefited from a financial contribution from Spain under the FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices.

According to the agency, 963 million people or around 15 per cent of the world’s population are currently suffering from hunger and malnutrition.


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