Disgruntled European farmers have lately been protesting the sinking value of their goods. Hit by a confluence of several factors, agricultural commodity prices are continuing their downward slide – with no end in sight.
World food commodity prices in August logged their largest monthly drop since December 2008, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday – unwelcome news for Europe’s struggling farmers.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index – which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oil seeds, dairy, meat and sugar – averaged 155.7 points in August, down 8.5 points or 5.2% from July.
“Ample supplies, a slump in energy prices, and concerns over China’s economic slowdown all contributed to the sharpest fall of the FAO Food Price Index in almost seven years,” the FAO said in a statement.
In addition, other factors – such as changing dietary habits and the Russian embargo on Western food products – have pushed down prices for beef, pork and milk.
No end in sight
FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian said there were no harbingers of an upward price trend in the months ahead, adding that signs of a slowdown in China were being reflected in imports of agricultural commodities like soybeans. China is the world’s biggest importer of soy.
“A country of that population and size slowing down affects all sectors, agriculture included,” Abbassian said.
The UN agency is also forecasting increased production of cereal, coarse grains, wheat and rice for 2015, which will likely further push down prices.
Prices fell for all commodities on the index, with the exception of meat, which remained virtually unchanged from July. Although they’ve held steady, meat prices have nevertheless dropped 18% since their historic peak a year earlier in August 2014.
Earlier this month, thousands of farmers and more than 1,000 tractors descended on Brussels to protest against slumping food prices, soaring costs and high taxes – all of which, they said, were threatening their livelihoods.
The demonstration was the culmination of months of growing anger that saw farmers block key cities, dump manure and rotting vegetables in the streets and, in one case, send pigs running through supermarket aisles.
On 7 September, the European Commission announced a €500m ($560m) package in emergency funds to help ease the pressure on the industry.
el/nz (AFP, Reuters, EPD)