Poorest countries are facing a growing burden from the cost of importing food according to the latest Food Outlook report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in July 2018.
The report states that the world food import bill has broadly tripled since 2000 to reach USD 1.43 trillion in 2017, while it has risen around fivefold for countries that are the most vulnerable to food shortages. This shows a trend that has been deteriorating over time, according to the authors, portending an increasing challenge, especially for the poorest countries, to meet their basic food needs from international markets.
The global food import bill is likely to rise by around 3 per cent to about USD 1.47 trillion this year. The annual increase mostly reflects greater international trade in fish - a high-value food mostly imported by developed countries - and cereals, a staple that is an essential import for many Low-Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs).
FAO took a longer-term view of that trend and found that countries may indeed be "paying more for less food," even though global production and trading conditions have been quite benign in recent years.
The analysis focuses on both the trend and the composition - animal proteins, fruits and vegetables, cereals, beverages, oilseeds and coffee, tea and spices - of food import bills over time. Food imports have risen at an annual global average rate of 8 percent since 2000, but that pace has been in the double digits for the vast majority of the poorest countries.
In a "stark contrast", the share of cereals compared to higher-value foods in the import basket has not declined in poorer countries, while it has declined considerably in wealthier ones.
The food-import bill now accounts for 28 per cent of all merchandise export earnings for the group of least-developed countries (LDCs), nearly double the share of 2005. Developed nations not only have a larger GDP per capita, but also, they typically only spend around 10 per cent of their export earnings on food imports.
Food Outlook July 2018: www.fao.org/3/CA0239EN/ca0239en.pdf