Global food prices have surpassed the 2008 record high that saw political unrest and riots around the world and a spike in world hunger; by 2009 the FAO's World Food Programme (WFP) estimated the number of hungry people in the world had exceeded 1 billion.

At the end of 2010 food prices had lowered somewhat, and there were signs of slow recovery from the economic crisis. These positive trends were reflected in WFP estimates that the number of hungry had fallen to 925 million. 

The start of 2011 has seen global food prices reach all-time highs, and as world leaders look towards increased multilateralism to stabilise markets, unrest has already brought riots and fatal clashes to Tunisia and Algeria. There is no quick-fix on the horizon, and recent climatic events in major food producing regions conspire to push food prices ever higher.

The current outlook is one of continued growth in food prices and increased food price volatility. Neither of these are compatible with the human right for food security.

Food Prices: the CropLife International Perspective

CropLife International is a global federation representing the plant science industry, it believes that avoiding food price shocks and reducing food price volatility is imperative to achieving food security, stating that the following three measures will help achieve this:

• Increasing productivity sustainably 

• Improving distribution and access to food 

• Mitigating the risk of price surges 

The FAO predicts that global food production must rise by 70 percent to meet the food needs of a growing population by 2050. Production in developing countries needs to almost double. This tremendous increase in demand will have to be matched with an increase in supply. To achieve this growth, in the paper 'CropLife International Perspective on Food Prices' these measures are addressed in detail, and include calls to policy makers to:

Increase yields on existing land: Opportunities to expand arable land are limited and not sustainable. Thus, to achieve production increases without damaging the environment, we need to increase yields on land already under production. It is estimated that 90 percent of production increases must come by increasing yields on existing land. Innovative crop technologies, including modern crop protection solutions to avoid harvests being lost to pests and diseases. 

Improve resource management: Waste must be reduced and consumption practices must become more sustainable. Waste occurs throughout the supply chain – from pre- and post-harvest crop losses to pests and disease, to unsustainable food consumption practices at the consumer level. Policies to address waste at each stage of the production and consumption process are needed.

Foster innovation: Policies to incentivize continued private and public R&D investment are critical to generate solutions for the challenges to food production in the coming years. Farmer-focused and locally relevant research must be prioritized to ensure that the outcomes are both impactful and relevant.

The FAO says that those countries with “higher net investment per agricultural worker have been more successful at reducing hunger”.

Access to knowledge and technologies: If productivity increase is an important factor for keeping food prices stable, then the wider application of modern technologies and knowledge to farmers – particularly in the developing world - is crucial. A situation in which yields in many developing parts of the world reach only 20 percent of the yields achieved in the developed world is unacceptable.

View the full CropLife International Paper at: