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Three Mediterranean countries will need external food aid in 2021




World wheat production on the rise (photo: FAO)
World wheat production on the rise (photo: FAO)
MEDITERRANEAN. In its report "Crop Prospects and Food Situation", the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) lists forty-five countries that will need external food aid in 2021. Thirty-four of these are in Africa* and three in the Mediterranean: Libya (also counted in the African continent), Lebanon and Syria.

In Libya, the FAO points to insecurity, economic and political instability and high food prices. It is estimated that 1.3 million people (23% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance, 700 million of whom require food aid. "Half of them are displaced Libyans or migrants residing in Libya or transiting through the country," says the UN organisation's report.

Subjected for months to a financial and economic crisis and its social repercussions, Lebanon is no longer able to feed its population. In August 2020, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) revealed that 55% of the population lived below the poverty line, compared to 28% in 2019. According to the report published on 4 March 2021 by the FAO, this figure would be higher today because of a drop in household purchasing power.

According to Syria's own data, 12.4 million inhabitants (60% of the total population) are food insecure. That is 5.4 million more than at the end of 2019. "Although international food aid is being provided, Syrian refugees are putting pressure on the resources of host communities," FAO says.

Increase in food supplies

Cereal production has declined in North Africa. Figures in million tonnes. (table: FAO)
Cereal production has declined in North Africa. Figures in million tonnes. (table: FAO)
The Rome-based organisation estimates that between January and June 2021 the number of food-insecure people is expected to increase by nearly 3 million to 16.2 million worldwide.

This is despite global wheat production (502 million tonnes for the 51 low-income food-deficit countries) up 3% in 2020 compared to 2019 and a forecast of a new record in 2021 of 780 million tonnes. It should be noted, however, that the European Union (281.5 million tonnes) and North Africa (32.7 million tonnes) are the only two major regions to record a decline in cereal production over the same period, with -13.1% and -9.5% respectively.

Total world cereal production in 2020 was 2 761.3 million tonnes (+1.9%).

"In 2020-2021, the UN organisation notably forecasts a 2.0% annual growth in world wheat use, which should reach 2.766 billion tonnes. This represents a 5.5% increase in world trade in cereals, which is expected to reach 464 million tonnes. The FAO also expects world stocks of rice and wheat to grow, while those of coarse grains are expected to decline," the report said.

The FAO food index shows a rise in food prices in February 2021, the ninth consecutive month of increases. This mainly concerns sugar (+6.4% compared to January 2021) and vegetable oils (+6.2% - the highest level since April 2012).

Cereal prices alone rose by an average of 1.2% compared with January. Sorghum prices rose by 17.4% over the month, while international prices for maize, wheat and rice remained stable or increased slightly.


*Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Read the FAO report "Crop Prospects and Food Situation".

Eric Apim


Monday, March 8th 2021



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