African inflation could cause ‘humanitarian tsunami’

Soaring prices of basic foodstuffs could cause a “humanitarian tsunami” in Africa, European Union Development Commissioner Louis Michel warned on Tuesday.

“A world food crisis is emerging, less visible than the oil [price] crisis, but with the potential effect of real economic and humanitarian tsunami in Africa,” Michel said in a statement after a meeting with African Union Commission chief Jean Ping.

Ping said the soaring prices represented a “major challenge” and called on the international community to invest in the farming sector, notably in Africa, the European Commission said in a statement.

Michel said the EU’s executive arm planned, in the short term, to boost its emergency food aid and push for more international mobilisation to help tackle the problem of food security in Africa.

Funding earmarked for agriculture and rural development in the poorest nations from the European Development Funds will be boosted from €650-million presently to €1,2-billion, he said.

Since African households spend a relatively high proportion of their earnings on food, higher food prices hit them particularly hard.

The rise in prices of food staples such as rice, wheat flour and maize are also forcing African governments to take emergency measures, which are affecting their budgets.

The rise in international food prices “poses significant threats to Africa’s growth, peace and security”, African finance ministers warned in a statement at the end of a meeting in Addis Ababa last week to discuss the crisis. — AFP

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