January 14, 2011 / 8:55 AM / in 9 years

INTERVIEW-No cause for alarm now on global food -FAO official

TOKYO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The global food supply and demand balance is tight but the situation is not as severe as in 2008 because there are sufficient stocks of food grains, a senior official of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Friday.

The rises in wheat and crude oil prices are among the key areas of concern but they are still below their peaks hit in 2008, while prices of rice, a staple food, have fallen sharply.

“In general, the supply/demand situation of food grains has become very tight at the moment but enough stocks means there is no cause for alarm at the moment,” at least for about a year, said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO’s assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.

“We still maintain sufficient stocks which is about 25 percent of annual production. As long as there are sufficient stocks, that means the world has enough food still to feed to the people,” Konuma, who is based in Bangkok, told Reuters in an interview.

A series of natural disasters has hit key grain-producing countries, fuelling supply shortage concerns when demand remains underpinned by emerging nations such as China and India.

FAO last week said its measure of global monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar in December hit its highest since records began in 1990.

Konuma said if the present situation surrounding production, oil prices and occurences of natural disasters continued, food prices may remain at the same level, but not necessarily higher.

“But it’s too premature to say. There could be additional external factors that may cause a potential further increase in prices, but it’s premature to say,” he said when asked about his projection for the FAO’s food price index for January. (Reporting by Chikako Mogi; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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