The World Bank warns that high food prices are pushing millions of people into extreme poverty and could condemn a generation to malnutrition.
Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said food prices are at “a tipping point”, having risen 36pc in the last year to levels close to their 2008 peak. The rising cost of food has been much more dramatic in low-income countries, pushing 44m people into poverty since June last year.
Another 10pc rise in food prices would push 10m into extreme poverty, defined as an effective income of less than $1.25 a day. Already, the world’s poor number 1.2bn.
Mr Zoellick said he saw no short term reversal in the damaging effect of food inflation, which is felt much more in the developing world as packaging and distribution accounts for a far larger proportion of the cost in the advanced economies.
Asked if he thought prices would remain high for a year, Mr Zoellick said: “The general trend lines are ones where we are in a danger zone… because prices have already gone up and stocks are relatively low.”
Rising prices have been driven by the changing diet of the ballooning middle classes in the emerging markets. “There is a demand change going on, with the higher incomes in developing countries. People will eat more meat products, for example, that will use more grain.