FAO Report Highlights Concerns Over Declining Food Imports in Vulnerable Countries

Why in News:

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a report raising concerns about the expected decline in food imports by vulnerable countries in 2023.

Important Points:

  • The FAO report reveals that food imports by vulnerable countries are projected to decline in the current year. In contrast, advanced economies continue to witness an expansion in their food imports, potentially leading to a new global bill record for 2023.
  • Least developed countries are expected to experience a 1.5 per cent decline in their food import bills this year. Similarly, net food-importing developing countries might witness a 4.9 per cent decrease in their food imports, as indicated in the FAO’s biannual report on global food markets.
  • This decline in food import volumes for both groups of countries is concerning and suggests a potential decrease in their purchasing capacity.
  • Although international prices for certain primary food items have decreased, the benefits have not fully translated into lower domestic retail costs. Consequently, cost-of-living pressures could persist in 2023.
  • Despite the decline in imports for vulnerable countries, the FAO predicts that the global food import bill will reach a record high of $1.98 trillion in 2023, representing a 1.5 per cent increase from the previous year.
  • However, this growth rate is much slower compared to the significant increases seen in 2021 and 2022, where the world food import bill rose by 18 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.
  • The rising quotations for fruits, vegetables, sugar, and dairy products are dampening demand, particularly in economically vulnerable countries.
  • In terms of specific commodities, the FAO forecasts a 1.3 per cent increase in world rice production in 2023-24, reaching 523.5 million tonnes. However, international trade in rice is expected to decline by 4.3 per cent in volume terms to 53.6 million tonnes.
  • On the other hand, wheat production in 2023 is predicted to decrease by 3 per cent from its record-high of 777 million tonnes in 2022, primarily due to anticipated decreases in production in the Russian Federation and Australia, both of which recorded exceptional production levels last year.

About the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • Founded in 1945, the FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, leading international efforts to combat hunger.
  • It has 194 member countries, including India, and the European Union.
  • The organization’s primary goals include eradicating hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition, eliminating poverty, and promoting sustainable management and utilization of natural resources such as land, water, air, climate, and genetic resources.
  • The FAO’s headquarters are located in Rome, Italy.

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