Thursday, February 17, 2011

world bank warns of soaring food prices

Guardian | The World Bank has given a stark warning of the impact of the rising cost of food, saying an estimated 44 million people had been pushed into poverty since last summer by soaring commodity prices.

Robert Zoellick, the Bank's president, said food prices had risen by almost 30% in the past year and were within striking distance of the record levels reached during 2008.

"Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world," Zoellick said. "The price hike is already pushing millions of people into poverty, and putting stress on the most vulnerable, who spend more than half of their income on food."

According to the latest edition of Food Price Watch, the World Bank's food price index was up by 15% between October 2010 and January 2011, is 29% above its level a year earlier, and only 3% below its 2008 peak.

Wheat prices have seen the most pronounced increases, doubling between June last year and January 2011, while maize prices were up 73%.

The bank said that fewer people had fallen into poverty than in 2008 because of two factors – good harvests in many African countries had kept prices stable, and the increases in rice prices – a key part of the diet for many of the world's poor – had been moderate.