JOHANNESBURG— Food inflation is becoming entrenched in southern Africa and there is little policy makers can do in the face of global markets, demographic pressures and soaring input costs.
The price of putting bread on the table is headline news again because a scorching drought in the US Midwest has driven corn prices to historic peaks.
South African maize and wheat futures are also at or near record highs. Food price pressures are bubbling in Africa and while inflation remains below peaks scaled in 2008, there are worrying signs prices might not subside as quickly as they did in 2009.
In South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy and no. 1 maize or corn producer, inflation was 5.5% in June compared to 11.6 % at the same point in 2008. It accelerated to 13.6% in August that year.
In Zambia, inflation ended 2008 at almost 17% but is currently 6.2%, a trend mirrored elsewhere in the region.And in the longer run, the outlook for regional food prices can only be skyward because of demography, which will lift demand, and also possibly climate change, which may hit supply if events such as the current US drought become frequent.