Sunday, April 13, 2008

Haiti: World Bank Echoes Food Cost Alarm

According to the BBC today, the rapid rise in food prices could push 100 million people in poor countries deeper into poverty, the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, has said.

His warning follows that from the leader of the International Monetary Fund, who said hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of starvation. Mr. Zoellick proposed an action plan to boost long-run agricultural production.

There have been food riots recently in a number of countries, including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt, the BBC reports.

The World Bank and its sister organization, the IMF have held a weekend of meetings that addressed rising food and energy prices as well as the credit crisis upsetting global financial markets.

Food prices have risen sharply in recent months, the BBC reports, driven by increased demand, poor weather in some countries that has ruined crops, and an increase in the use of land to grow crops for transport fuels.


· Wheat: 130%

· Soya: 87%

· Rice: 74%

· Corn: 31%

Time: Year to March 2008 (Source: Bloomberg)

The BBC reports that the price of staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn have all risen, leading to an increase in overall food prices of 83% in the last three years.

The sharp rises have led to protests and unrest in many countries, including Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia. In Haiti, protests last week turned violent, leading to the deaths of five people and the fall of the government. In the capital, Port-au-Prince, a U.N. peacekeeper from Nigeria was fatally shot on Saturday.

On Saturday, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned of mass starvation and other dire consequences if food prices continue to rise sharply. “As we know, learning from the past, those kinds of questions sometimes end in war,” he said.