frican Importers Account for Half

UN Report: World Food Import Bill Reaches Record High, African Importers Account for Half


A new report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reveals significant trends in the world food import market. With the global food import bill forecasted to reach a record-breaking $1.98 trillion this year, various factors are shaping the industry’s trajectory.

Among the key findings is that the top five importers in Africa, including Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Morocco, and Nigeria, account for 50% of the continent’s total food imports. Egypt leads with a 15% share, followed by Algeria (12%), South Africa (9%), Morocco (7%), and Nigeria (7%).

According to the FAO’s Food Outlook estimates, the global food import bill is projected to rise by 1.5% to $1.98 trillion in 2023, compared to an 11% increase in 2022 and an 18% increase in 2021. However, the growth rate is expected to be slower this year due to rising world prices, particularly in fruits, vegetables, sugar, and dairy products. These higher prices have led to a decrease in demand, especially in economically vulnerable countries.

While food imports by advanced economies continue to expand, the report predicts a decline of 1.5% in the import bill for the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and a 4.9% decline for net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs).

The FAO report emphasizes concerns over declining purchasing capacity in both groups, as lower international prices for primary food items have not fully translated into lower retail prices domestically. This situation suggests that cost-of-living pressures could persist in 2023, potentially leading to social unrest and increased financial challenges.

The report highlights the main sources of food imports, with emerging markets like Brazil and India leading the way. Additionally, several European Union (EU) countries feature in the top 20 suppliers.

In terms of agricultural production, the FAO predicts increases in most categories, including rice, coarse grains, oil crops, milk, sugar, meat, fish, and fishery products. However, global wheat output is expected to decline by 3% from its all-time high in 2022, mainly due to expected decreases in Russia and Australia. Extreme weather events and lower planted areas are likely contributors to the decline.

Despite positive production forecasts, the report emphasizes that global agrifood production systems remain vulnerable to shocks, such as extreme weather events, geopolitical tensions, policy changes, and developments in other commodity markets. These factors have the potential to disrupt demand-supply balances, impact prices, and affect global food security.

As the world faces evolving challenges, monitoring food import trends and ensuring sustainable agricultural practices remain critical to addressing food security concerns on a global scale.

Key Highlights:

  • African importers Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Morocco, and Nigeria account for 50% of Africa’s total food imports.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts a new record of $1.98 trillion for the world food import bill this year.
  • Rising global prices for fruits, vegetables, sugar, and dairy products dampen food import demand, particularly in economically vulnerable countries.
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