News / Africa

Skyrocketing Food Prices Push Millions into Extreme Poverty

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

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid