The governing body of the United Nations trade and development agency has convened a meeting today in Geneva to highlight the need to keep the food crisis affecting Africa from being forgotten as governments focus on tackling the global economic downturn.
While the food crisis may not be making the headlines it did last year, food security is still a major concern in many African countries, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The prices of staple foods remain above their long-term averages and over 300 million Africans – about a third of the continent’s population – continue to face chronic hunger, the agency said in an information note. Ensuring food security in the region will require improving productivity and rural livelihoods, as well as addressing global market imbalances.
UNCTAD said that decades of neglect, both national and international, of the African agricultural sector has transformed many countries from net food exporters to net food importers, leaving them vulnerable to price swings and variations in global crop yields. African countries currently import about 25 per cent of their food.
“The vulnerability of the continent to serious food shortages and hunger remains, since the root causes have not been resolved, and a repeat of the 2008 food crisis can recur if prices for such staples as rice, wheat, corn, and cooking oil climb again on world markets,” said the agency.
Among those addressing the meeting convened by the Trade and Development Board on the issue were UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, and David Nabarro, Coordinator for the Global Food Security Crisis and Avian and Pandemic Influenza, as well as several experts.