Thursday, February 03, 2011

Robert Zoellick calls on G-20 to rein in food prices

Food prices have surged above the levels of 2008 when prices were then termed to be at crisis levels. Riots occurred in the food crisis of a few years ago and were seeing an historic surge of anti-government protests now. This in part because of the pressures of trying to buy food and trying to obtain a job has pushed people to the point of revolt.

In an interview with Reuters, World Bank President Robert Zoellick calls on government to do more to curb food prices. Speculation of food commodities has helped to drive up prices and Zoellick says as long as speculators are allowed to do that food prices will remain volatile. Writer Lesley Wroughton says Zoellick wants the G-20 to make food prices a priority this year.

"We are going to be facing a broader trend of increasing commodity prices, including food commodity prices," Zoellick told Reuters.

"This can put pressure but also create opportunities," he added, noting that developing nations could boost revenues by increasing food production to meet rising global demand.

He said increased consumer demand, especially for sugar and meat, in fast-growing emerging economies was a major factor pushing prices higher compared with the 2007/2008 crisis.

A mix of high oil and fuel prices, growing use of biofuels, bad weather and soaring futures markets pushed prices to record levels in 2007 and 2008, sparking violent protests in Africa.

Zoellick said the Food Price Index of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, which measures monthly prices changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, showed food prices surging to above 2007/08 levels.

Higher food prices are set to push the index on Thursday to a record high in January for a second straight month.

The higher prices, together with political repression and growing inequality between the rich and poor, have fanned protests across the Middle East, including Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan.

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