World Bank: rocketing food prices have put fight
against poverty back 7 years

Heather Stewart and Larry Elliott
guardian.co.uk, Thursday April 10 2008
  Ears of wheat growing in a field
The price of wheat has risen 120%. Photograph: Steve Satushek/Getty Images

Rocketing global food prices are causing acute problems of hunger in poor countries and have put back the fight against poverty by seven years, the World Bank said today.

Robert Zoellick, the Bank's president, said that while consumers in rich countries were worried about the cost of filling the fuel tanks in their cars, people in poor countries were "struggling to fill their stomachs. And it's getting more and more difficult every day."

Zoellick said the price of wheat has risen by 120% in the past year, more than doubling the cost of a loaf of bread. Rice prices were up by 75%.

"In Bangladesh a two kilogram bag of rice now consumes almost half of the daily income of a poor family. With little margin for survival, rising prices too often means fewer meals."

Poor people in Yemen, he said, were now spending more than a quarter of their income on bread.

"This is not just about meals foregone today, or about increasing social unrest, it is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth. Even more, we estimate that the effect of this food crisis on poverty reduction worldwide is in the order of seven lost years."

The Bank's analysis chimes with research from the International Monetary Fund showing that Africa will be the hardest hit continent from rising food prices. More than 20 African countries will see their trade balance worsen by more than 1% of GDP as a result of having to pay more for food.

Zoellick said this weekend's meetings of the World Bank and the IMF had to do more than simply identify the scale of the crisis.

"This is about recognising a growing emergency, acting, and seizing opportunity too. The world can do this. We can do this. We can have a new deal for global food policy."

Zoellick called on rich countries to provide $500m (£250m) to meet emergency food needs identified by the United Nations, stressed the need for an expansion in safety-net programmes for the poor, and said there was a need to boost long-term financial support to boost production.

"We must make agriculture a priority", he said.


Original article: Guardian
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