A Tale of Two Worlds: Favourable Projections, Looming Dearth

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the season of plenty, it is the season of famine – in short, it is that time when the positive medium term outlook for world agriculture is tempered by the “usual suspects.”

For the fourth month running, the FAO Food Price Index – a measure of the monthly change in the international prices of a basket of food commodities – dropped in August reaching its lowest level since 2012. The decline in the index was the result of sustained falls in the international prices of cereals and oils. Together with the Food Price Index, FAO also released a new forecast of world cereal production in 2013. In this forecast, world cereal production was raised to 2,492 million tonnes, up 14 million tonnes (or 0.5 percent) from the July forecast. The rise is predicted to be driven by an expansion of coarse grain output as well as a rise in wheat production. Paradoxically, as FAO was giving relatively favourable prospects for world agriculture, there was a mood of gloom and despondency in Kenya and Zimbabwe! Continue reading

Puddles of pests: why the weather really matters

Weather – an integral part of
farming ©Paul Dickson

While folklore has worked well for many farmers over the years, watching out for red skies or the wind changing direction isn’t always convenient, and a little more notice of hurricanes and tropical storms is usually appreciated. With recent stories of rain beating down on mangoes in Mexico, hail wreaking havoc on tobacco in Zimbabwe and droughts leaving crops more than a little thirsty in Cameroon, it seemed like good timing for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to announce its new development plans. Promising not only accurate predictions, but also free and easy access to more information than ever before, this latest advance is expected to go some way towards improving food security, particularly in developing countries.

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