World food balance seen unclear for next decade

World farming will face uncertainty for at least 10 years over how far supply and demand can be balanced, implying little short-term relief from price volatility, the EU’s leading agricultural producer France says.

In a working paper authored by France and being discussed by EU agriculture ministers at an informal meeting in late September, Paris says uncertainty about how much food to produce to meet demand will be the main issue to shape farm policy.

“An increase in agricultural productivity, in conjunction with the emergence of second-generation biofuels which compete less with food production, should reduce the tension on certain commodities markets,” the paper says.

“However, at least for the next decade, agriculture will probably have to face uncertainty about the final balance between supply and demand,” it says.

Farming experts say recent price rises in key food commodities can be attributed to a global range of diverse factors, both temporary and structural.

They include unpredictable weather in key producer countries, structural changes in demand, high oil prices, development of biofuels and changes in consumer eating habits in countries such as China, Brazil and India.

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