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Zambia Fixes Maize Price Again, Flustering World Bank

A giant Nshima pot

A giant Nshima pot, Zambia 2008. Photo by Mark Hemsworth (used with permission)

Nshima, the stodgy porridge-like substance cooked out of maize-meal, has divided families and triggered food riots in Zambia at one time or other. This is why subsequent governments have kept a keen eye on the growing, harvesting, buying and selling of maize-meal to consumers.

The production of maize — or corn as it is known in other parts of the world —  is an even bigger issue in the mining region of the Copperbelt and metropolitan areas like the capital, Lusaka, where large working populations rely on the commercial supply of the product. Accordingly, maize determines the political direction of the nation.

In May, the World Bank urged the Zambian government not to interfere in determining the floor prices of maize sold by farmers to the Food Reserve Agency and other interested parties in the agri-business chain. Despite such calls, the Ministry of Agriculture announced this year’s floor price of maize at K65, 000 (about $13 USD) per 50 kilo bag. » More

Begging for Food

What’s for Dinner? photo: oceandesetoiles/flickr

Officials from five aid agencies who have just returned from a trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) say they saw evidence of looming food shortages and alarming malnutrition, including people picking wild grasses to eat. The experts visited North Korea at the request of the DPRK government and were given unprecedented access to assess the country’s food situation. Their report now shows a nation on the verge of disaster. They are therefore appealing for quick assistance to feed the isolated country’s most vulnerable people. There are hurdles, however, to resuming aid to North Korea.

The charity workers – from Christian Friends of Korea, Global Resource Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision – spent a week in North Korea earlier this month. In their report, they say they visited hospitals, orphanages and homes as well as farms and warehouses. And they paint a very bleak picture. Last summer, heavy rains and flooding reduced vegetable crops by more than 50 percent, and a bitter winter has now frozen up to 50 percent of wheat and barley. Both the NGOs and the North Korean authorities estimate that food stocks will be exhausted before June.

North Korea has been suffering from food shortages due to economic mismanagement and natural disasters intermittently for the past two decades, when China and the former Soviet Union implemented hard currency payment systems that sharply reduced North Korea’s ability to import goods. The years of mismanagement thus resulted in famines during the 1990s which, according to some estimates, killed over a million people. In past years, therefore, South Korea and the US have been the primary external sources of food, either through direct food assistance or deliveries of fertilizer. But this year, with rising impatience and anger toward the North Korean regime, these reinforcements are in doubt. » More

Feast or Famine?

Wrestling with questions of how to feed a burgeoning population, photo: Mr Kris/flickr

Growing population demands and the shrinking availability of arable land and groundwater resources raise questions about the sustainability of agricultural production. This week the ISN takes a closer look at the threats to the future of agriculture, and the technological advances that could help promote – or in some cases undermine – global food security.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Peter Buxbaum on the promises and pitfalls of agricultural biotechnology.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Ronnie Coffman on the dangers of wheat rust and the global efforts to develop more resistant varieties of wheat to mitigate the coming epidemic.
  • Security Watch articles about reducing pesticide use, racially motivated land grabs and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the recently published Center for Global Development Working Paper on ‘Pulling Agricultural Innovation and the Market Together’.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of the US Department of Agriculture’s projections to 2019.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as to the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, which pursues the systematic reduction of vulnerability to stem, yellow and leaf rusts of wheat.
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