News / Africa

Skyrocketing Food Prices Push Millions into Extreme Poverty

World Bank reports wheat and maize costs have spiked 75 percent since last June

A farmer reaps wheat in Pakistan, where prices for the crop have jumped 16 percent since June 2010.
A farmer reaps wheat in Pakistan, where prices for the crop have jumped 16 percent since June 2010.

The head of the World Bank says a sharp rise in food prices has pushed 44 million people into extreme poverty. World Bank President Robert Zoellick is calling on the Group of 20 leading and emerging economies to put food first on its agenda.

The World Bank's latest food price index is just three percent below its 2008 peak. Wheat and maize prices have gone up about 75 percent since last June. According to report, wheat increased 54 percent in Kyrgyzstan, 45 percent in Bangladesh, 37 percent in Tajikistan, 33 percent in Mongolia, 31 percent in Sri Lanka, 19 percent in Afghanistan and 16 percent in both Sudan and Pakistan.

According to Zoellick, high and volatile food prices are a key challenge in the developing world, where the most vulnerable people spend more than half their income on food.

"Even before these latest price hikes, there were already more than 900 million people going hungry each day," he says. "Now, with an estimated 44 million more people living in extreme poverty, it shows this year is shaping up to be a very tough year for the chronically malnourished."

This year is not as bad as 2008, when prices hit record highs. That's because grain stocks are somewhat larger, maize harvests in Africa were good, and rice prices have not risen as much as other grains. But Zoellick says the upcoming growing season will be especially important.

"We already are in stress points in a number of markets. If this trend continues, if we don't get a relief on the weather side, then I foresee conditions getting worse. And, mistaken policy actions such as export bans and other types of price controls will just exacerbate the problem."

Drought in the Black Sea region cut Russia's wheat harvest by a third in 2010. A subsequent ban on wheat exports drove prices up.
Drought in the Black Sea region cut Russia's wheat harvest by a third in 2010. A subsequent ban on wheat exports drove prices up.

Last summer, Russia banned wheat exports after a major drought. Rice export bans were blamed for worsening price spikes in 2007 and 2008 that led to some food riots.

Speaking ahead of this week's G-20 finance ministers meeting in Paris, Zoellick discourages export bans and called for a global code of conduct that would at least exempt humanitarian shipments from restrictions.

He believes high and unstable prices are likely to be a long-term trend, in part because of the rising demand for biofuels and the growing appetite for meat in developing countries.

"What we're now seeing is a trend punctuated by some great volatility," says Zoellick, "and the poor and vulnerable have got no cushion when the prices spike."

To help offset the problem, he's calling for global action to provide better safety nets for pregnant women and young children and to improve developing-world farmers' access to better seeds, fertilizer and markets.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid