The UN barometer of world food prices has surged to a new peak, reaching its highest level since July 2011, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced this Thursday.

The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks the international prices of a basket of food commodities, is up 3.9 per cent from September, rising for a third consecutive month.

Cereal prices overall increased by 3.2 per cent, with wheat rising five per cent, due to reduced harvests in major exporting nations, including Canada, Russia and the United States. Prices of all other major cereals also increased.

The vegetable oil index went up 9.6 per cent, hitting an all-time high, and dairy rose by 2.6 points, with increased demand for butter, skimmed milk powder and whole milk powder, as buyers try to replenish low stocks. By contrast, cheese prices remained stable.

For the third consecutive month, the meat index declined, amid reduced purchases of pork products from China, and a sharp decline in beef from Brazil. Poultry and sheep prices rose.

After six consecutive monthly increases, sugar prices also dropped, by 1.8 per cent, amidst limited global demand and large surpluses for export.

Record cereal output​

Compared to last year, global cereal production for 2021, is anticipated to increase and reach a new record level, of some 2,793 million tonnes.

World cereal consumption for 2021/22 is heading towards a 1.7 per cent gain, led by an anticipated increase in global food consumption of wheat, rising in tandem with a growing global population.

Food and climate​

The production, distribution and consumption of all this food, uses about a third of the world’s total energy, according to a new report launched on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

Feeding the world population is also responsible for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a priority in the fight against climate change. 

The report, Renewable energy for agri-food systems – Towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, shares several examples of how that can be accomplished.

Solar irrigation, for example, can improve access to water, enabling multiple cropping cycles and increasing resilience to changing rainfall patterns.

In India, the use of solar irrigation pumps has raised farmers’ incomes by at least 50 per cent compared to when rain was the only option. In Rwanda, smallholder farmers’ yields have grown by about a third.

In a video message, FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, argued that the report “shows that there are many opportunities to implement renewable energy solutions across agri-food systems.”

Breaking down silos​

The publication also provides recommendations, including better data collection to guide renewable energy investments, improved access to finance, and a greater focus on raising awareness and building capacity.

Not only do a third of agri-food emissions stem from energy use (fuel for farm machinery for example), that number grew 20 per cent rise between 2000 and 2018.

According to the report, that growth has been mainly driven by mechanisation in Asia, such as irrigation pumps, farm machinery, processing equipment and inputs such as fertilisers.

Energy use in Africa, which hosts around 15 per cent of the global population, has remained largely constant, and only accounts for about 4 per cent of the global consumption.

The report is the result of a joint effort between FAO and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).