Lebanon at mercy of food price hike
Lebanon’s vulnerability to global food price shocks may compromise its ability to make progress across a number of Millennium Development Goals, the World Bank’s “Global Monitoring Report 2012” suggests.
The report, which was published last week, rates Lebanon among the most vulnerable countries in the world to global food price shocks. As a net importer of cereal as a share of consumption, Lebanon is categorized as a country that faces “higher import bills, reduced fiscal space, and greater transmission of world prices to local prices for imported goods such as rice and wheat,” the report states.
Where countries rely on food imports, and particularly wheat, for at least 50 percent of domestic consumption, “higher international prices can put considerable pressure on government and household budgets,” it says.
Lebanon imports almost 80 percent of its annual wheat consumption, according to 2011 figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The World Bank report also highlights that recent jumps in international food prices have halted the world’s progress across a number of the Millennium Development Goals.
“High and volatile food prices do not bode well for attainment of many MDGs, as they erode consumer purchasing power and prevent millions of people from escaping poverty and hunger, besides having long-term adverse impacts on health and education,” said Justin Yifu Lin, the World Bank’s chief economist and senior vice president for development economics. “Dealing with food price volatility must be a high priority, especially as nutrition has been one of the forgotten MDGs,” he added.
Among Lebanon’s MDGs are the targets of reducing by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and lowering by 50 percent the percentage of people suffering from hunger in the country. In Lebanon, the population living under the poverty line reaches 28.6 percent, according to the United Nations Development Project.
The World Bank report, acknowledging the challenges governments face in responding to high food prices amid a global recession, recommends countries “deploy agricultural policies to encourage farmers to increase production.