Food prices rising to 'dangerous levels', says World Bank

Food prices rising to 'dangerous levels', says World Bank

Spiralling prices of wheat, maize, sugar and oils apart from food items such as vegetables turning costlier, are pushing food inflation higher, according to World Bank.

"Rising food prices have driven an estimated 44 million people into (extreme) poverty in developing countries since last June as food costs continue to rise to near 2008 levels," the multilateral agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Those who earn less than USD 1.25 per day are considered to be in extreme poverty.
World Bank Group President Robert B Zoellick noted that global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people.

The multilateral agency's food price index has climbed 15 per cent between October 2010 and January 2011. According to the World Bank, global wheat prices have doubled between June 2010 and January 2011 whereas rice prices have increased at a slower rate than other grains.

"Sugar and edible oils have also gone up sharply. Other food items essential for dietary diversity in many countries have increased, such as vegetables in India and China, and beans in some African countries," it noted.

High inflation, spurred by rising food prices, are staring at policymakers in many of the fast-growing nations including India and China.

Soaring inflation even poses threat to the global economic growth as developed and developing countries are varying speeds of revival, it said. In India, food inflation stood at 13.07 per cent in the last week of January after hovering above 15 per cent in recent months.

"In 2008, there were food riots. While not the primary cause for the political instability we see today in the Middle East, rising prices have nevertheless been an aggravating factor that could become more serious," Zoellick said.

Stressing that there is no "silver bullet" to resolve the potent combination of rising and volatile food prices, Zoellick also called for more transparency by providing greater public access to information on the quality and quantity of grain stocks, among others.