Declining International Trade For Basic Foodstuffs


The global food production landscape consistently changes, with the current global outlooks appearing to bode well for most essential foodstuffs. However, a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) highlights potential risks. Factors like extreme weather events, geopolitical tensions, and sudden policy changes could disrupt global food production systems, jeopardising delicate demand-supply balances and trade prospects.

The latest edition of the biannual Food Outlook provides updated forecasts for major food staples, covering production, trade, utilisation, and stocks. Projections indicate a decline in coarse grains and rice trade volumes in 2023 and 2024. Despite this, global maise output is expected to significantly increase, driven by expanded plantings in Brazil and the United States.

A modest dip in trade volumes is anticipated in the realm of vegetable oils and fats, while global production and consumption are set to expand. The report predicts reduced trade volumes for sugar, dairy products, meat, and fish in the coming year. The report also serves as a detailed collection of major policy developments in the food commodity sector since mid-May.

The Food Outlook revises FAO's global food import bill estimates in 2023, reaching £2 trillion, a 1.8 percent increase from 2022. Fruits, vegetables, beverages, and sugar drive the bulk of this increase, primarily in high-income and upper-middle-income countries. Conversely, low-income countries are expected to experience an 11 percent contraction in their aggregate food import bill.

These developments often mirror world price trends, with surges in international quotations for fruits, vegetables, and sugars and declines for animal and vegetable oils throughout the year. Despite this, the volume effect on the global food import bill exceeds the price effect, bar high-value or processed products like coffee, tea, cocoa, and spices.

The report sheds light on the challenges faced by the least developed countries, net food-importing developing countries, and sub-Saharan African nations. Their food import bills are anticipated to be squeezed due to various factors, including weakened currencies, escalating debt levels, and high freight costs, hindering their access to international food markets.

The report also sheds insight into domestic price developments in net food-importing developing countries and analyses trends in the FAO Global Food Consumption Price Indices, providing insights into price changes based on average global caloric and protein intakes.