Rising food prices a global crisis - UN Chief
Rising food prices have developed into a global crisis, United
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.
Concerns about food security mounted this week as rice prices hit
records in Asia and the United States warned that staples for the
world’s hungry were getting much more expensive.
“This steeply rising price of food has developed into a real global
crisis,” Ban told journalists in Vienna.
Anger over high food and fuel costs in recent months has sparked
protests in several countries.
In Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, protests have brought
down the government and killed six, while in Cameroon at least 24 have
died in protests linked partly to rising living costs.
Governments of several food-growing countries, worried about domestic
shortages, have imposed export curbs, spooking markets at a time when
world inventories are down sharply.
Ban said the crisis would be discussed at a meeting of U.N. agency
heads, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on April 28-29
in Berne, Switzerland.
“The United Nations is very much concerned as all members of the
international community (are),” he said. “We must take immediate action
in a concerted way.” Ban said world leaders should discuss ways to
improve food distribution systems and production.
Japan announced $100 million in emergency food aid on Friday and
World Food Program’s executive director said on Thursday the cost of
feeding the world’s hungry had spiked nearly 40 percent amid spiralling
food costs and oil prices.
International Monetary Fund has said it is in talks with governments
in 10 countries, mostly in Africa, about increasing financial assistance
to cover the soaring cost of food. (Reuters)
Shortages of basic food commodities have prompted riots from Haiti to
Pakistan, brought on by increasing food demands from developing
countries, poor crop yields and rising fuel prices.
Although the United States has escaped shortages seen in poor
countries, the nation is contending with the worst bout of food
inflation since 1990. From 2006 to 2007, food prices rose by 4 percent -
the highest annual increase since 1990, according to the U.S. Department
And this year, food prices are expected to increase by 3.5 percent to
4.5 percent as retailers pass on higher commodity and energy costs to
consumers. On Thursday, Associated Foods placed some restrictions on
rice shipments to retailers such as Harmon’s, Dan’s and Macey’s - only
to assure the supply will not be disrupted if there is a panic, said
Nate Laver of Associated Foods, a wholesale distributor headquartered in
Salt Lake City that serves 600 independent stores in eight states.
It’s up to individual retailers whether to restrict sales to
shoppers, said Laver. But so far, shoppers have not been snapping up
staples, although there has been a slight increase in the sales of rice.
This week, Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., limited
bulk purchases of rice nationwide, including the seven Utah locations,
after the Seattle-based Costco Wholesale Corp. imposed similar
restrictions in some of its stores.
“We’re going to have to come up with solution to how we limit or
don’t limit bulk rice purchases,” said Costco spokeswoman Deb Cain. “We
don’t have a timeline on when that decision will be made.”
Recent concerns of rice stockpiles may have been prompted by China,
Brazil, Vietnam, India and Indonesia limiting exports to ensure
sufficient supplies for their populations.