Food price rises pushing millions into extreme poverty, World Bank warns

Monday, August 15, 2011
By Paul Martin

The World Bank’s food price index shows wheat, maize and soya costs have soared, requiring a relaxation of export controls and a rethink on biofuels

By Phillip Inman
Guardian.co.uk

Food producing countries must relax export controls and divert production away from biofuels to prevent millions more people being driven into poverty by higher food prices, the head of the World BankRobert Zoellick said in Washington.
Without action to increase the supply of food, 10 million more people could fall below the $1.25 (76p) a day extreme poverty line over the next few months – in addition to the 44 million pushed into poverty by soaring food prices during the last year, he warned on Thursday.
A report by the World Bank found prices had jumped by 36% since April 2010, driven in part by higher fuel costs connected to instability in the Middle East and North Africa.

Higher transport and fertiliser costs have sent the price of wheat, maize and soya back to levels last seen in the price boom of 2008.

“More poor people are suffering and more people could become poor because of high and volatile food prices,” Zoellick said. “We have to put food first and protect the poor and vulnerable, who spend most of their money on food.”

He was speaking before the IMF and World Bank meetings later this week, which will be attended by finance ministers and central bankers including the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, and Bank of England governor Mervyn King.

A further 10% increase in food prices could drive an additional 10 million people below the poverty line, while a repeat of the last year’s increases would affect 34 million who are already close to the poverty line.

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