Whether for profit or social motives - and often both - an increasing number of investors are targeting opportunities in African agriculture. At the same time innovative approaches for deploying aid to support farming businesses linked to smallholders are emerging. This blog provides a snapshot of who is doing what, where and how.

29 May 2011

Food prices continue upward trend

Maize prices show no sign of falling from recent highs. On Friday 27 May the Gulf of Mexico price for a tonne of maize, as reported by Index Mundi, was US$322.64. That represents a doubling in twelve months and a nearly four-fold increase in a decade.

Continuing dry weather in many parts of Europe has led the FAO to warn of food riots. Abdolreza Abbassian, senior grains economist at the FAO, said: "If the current situation continues prices will respond very aggressively. . . Our fear is that we still haven't seen the worst of food inflation in vulnerable countries and that could be coming".

The Economist also warns of potential for food prices to trigger unrest. It reports that people living in the towns of sub-Saharan Africa spend a bigger share of their income on food than do urban residents almost anywhere else in the world.

Initiatives to stimulate investment in agriculture, such as the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor in Tanzania, could do much to boost yields and farmers' incomes. But time is running out. As Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India said, "Everything else can wait but not agriculture".