Food price hike drives 44 m people into poverty
Washington - Rising food prices have driven an estimated 44 million
people into poverty in developing countries since last June as food
costs continue to rise to near 2008 levels, according to new World Bank
Group numbers released ahead of the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and
Central Bank Governors in Paris.
“Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens
of millions of poor people around the world,” World Bank Group President
Robert B. Zoellick said.
“The price hike is already pushing millions of people into poverty,
and putting stress on the most vulnerable, who spend more than half of
their income on food.”
According to the latest edition of Food Price Watch, the World Bank’s
food price index rose by 15 percent between October 2010 and January
2011, is 29 percent above its level a year earlier, and is only three
percent below its 2008 peak.
Among grains, global wheat prices have risen the most, doubling
between June 2010 and January 2011.
Maize prices are about 73 percent higher, but crucially for many of
the world’s poor, rice prices have increased at a slower rate than other
Sugar and edible oils have also gone up sharply. Other food items
essential for dietary diversity in many countries have increased, such
as vegetables in India and China, and beans in some African countries.
According to Food Price Watch, the increase in extreme poverty (under
US$ 1.25 a day) due to the price hike is associated with higher
malnutrition, as poorer people eat less and are forced to buy food that
is both less expensive and less nutritious.
In contrast to the 2008 food price spike, two factors have prevented
even more people falling into poverty this time.
One is that good harvests in many African countries have kept prices
stable, especially for maize, a key staple.
Another is the fact that the increases in global rice prices have
been moderate and the outlook for the rice market appears stable.
Measures to address the recent round of food price spikes include
expanding nutritional and safety net programs in countries where food
prices are rising fastest, avoiding food export restrictions, and
finding better information on food stocks. More investments in
agriculture, the development of less food-intensive biofuels, and
climate change adaptation, are also needed.
The World Bank’s Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) is
helping some 40 million people in need through $1.5 billion in support.
To date, over 40 low income countries are receiving or will receive
assistance through new and improved seeds, irrigation, and other farm
support and food assistance for the most vulnerable people.
For example, in Benin, fertilizer provided through these resources
led to the production of an extra 100,000 tons of cereal.
For the longer-term, the World Bank Group is boosting its spending on
agriculture to some $6-8 billion a year from $4.1 billion in 2008.
- World Bank