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ever more restrictions on the world market

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Cereals, oils, meats… Difficult to trade in foodstuffs on the world market in the current context: in addition to the war in Ukraine, which penalizes two of the main cereal producers on the planet, 25 countries have taken measures to restrict their exports .

17.5% of global calories affected

Malaysia is extending the list from June 1, since it is ceasing its chicken exports, in order to stem the local shortage and restore price stability. India, for its part, will apply new restrictions: after wheat, in mid-May, the South Asian giant announced that it was going to limit the volumes of sugar it exports, the second global exporter.

In total, 17.5% of the food calories produced in the world are now subject to trade barriers, according to a count carried out by the NGO Ifpri, the International Food Policy Research Institute, based in Washington. These restrictions are fueling higher prices. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) index on the cost of food is at a historic high, 158.5 points in April.

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Multilateral institutions are stepping up warnings about export restrictions: rising prices “has devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable”, for example meant David Malpass, the president of the World Bank in May. Ifpri warns for its part of the risk “infectious” entailed by the adoption of these measures.

Worse than 2008

The food supply of some fifty poor countries, particularly in Africa, is threatened. The crisis threatens in an already deteriorated context. The FAO indicates that the number of people who cannot eat their fill daily has started to rise again with the health crisis, around 9.9% of the world’s population, according to a provisional assessment, i.e. 1.5 points. more than in 2019. And restrictions on global trade have started stronger than during the previous crisis.

The proportion of food calories affected is greater than in 2008, explains David Laborde, doctor in economics, who compiled the data for Ifpri. This is particularly linked to the fact that the current restrictions affect high-calorie foodstuffs such as palm oil. For many developing countries, it is very difficult to replace this cheap and nutritionally interesting oil: it provides vitamins and fats that wheat and rice do not contain. »

Soon the rice

Among the basic products of human consumption, only rice remains to avoid any hindrance to export. India, the world’s largest exporter, does not seem ready for the moment to reduce its exports, a very good harvest being announced. But Vietnam and Thailand, which are close behind India in the ranking of world exporters, announced on May 27 that they would work together to push up the price of rice, in order to allow their farmers to pass on the increases. of inputs.

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“Rice prices are very likely to increase, these countries have already applied restrictions in the past, analyzes David Laborde. Officially, it’s done to protect local populations. But, in fact, it allows them to quickly renegotiate prices with importers. The only question is: will the market panic? In 2008, Japan intervened with its strategic reserves to calm the market. »

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