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FAO Forecasts for Global Food Import Bills

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In a world grappling with various challenges, the global food import bill is poised to shatter records, reaching an unprecedented $1.98 trillion in 2023, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This increase of 1.5 percent from the previous year is driven by a combination of factors, including rising international prices and greater volumes of food imports.

Details on the Food Import Bill

The FAO report highlights that the anticipated surge in the 2023 food bill is a result of a $18.4 billion spike in international prices and a $12.9 billion increase in volumes. However, despite this notable upswing, the growth rate of the world food import bill is projected to slow down significantly compared to previous years as global demand diminishes.

The report underscores that in 2022, the global food bill surged by 11 percent, followed by a substantial 18 percent increase in 2021. The reduced demand this year, particularly in economically vulnerable nations, is primarily attributed to the global surge in prices caused by higher quotas of vegetables, fruits, sugar, and dairy products.

While advanced economies continue to witness expanding food imports, the FAO report reveals that the import bill for the least developed countries is expected to decline by 1.5 percent in 2023. Similarly, net food-importing developing countries are projected to experience a 4.9 percent decrease in their import bills. The report raises concerns about declining purchasing capacity in both groups, signalling potential social unrest and financial challenges.

The FAO emphasises that despite lower international prices for certain primary food items, these reductions have not fully translated into lower prices at the domestic retail level. Consequently, the report warns that cost-of-living pressures could persist throughout 2023, necessitating well-tailored interventions to combat inflation. FAO Senior Economist El-Mamoun Amrouk stresses the importance of addressing rising food prices to mitigate their potential adverse social and economic impacts.

Highs and Lows of Food Grain Outputs

While global forecasts indicate increased production across various food categories like oil crops, milk, rice, oil crops, coarse grains, fish, sugar, and meat, there is a projected drop in global wheat output. The report also highlights the vulnerability of global agricultural food production systems. Apart from weather events – becoming more severe yearly, policy alterations, geopolitical tensions, and general commodity market developments are listed as factors that are likely to affect food markets. Such disruptions can alter demand and supply balances, impacting prices and global food security.

In the face of these challenges, concerted efforts and proactive measures are crucial to address the rising food import bill, ensure stability in prices, and safeguard global food security.

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