Food prices push 44 mn into poverty: World Bank

AFP, Tuesday 15 Feb 2011

Food costs are up 29 percent from a year ago, near 2008 levels

Rising food prices have pushed about 44 million people into poverty in developing countries since last June, the World Bank warned Tuesday.

Food costs are continuing to rise to near 2008 levels, when price spikes in food and oil had devastating impacts on the poor, the development lender said, noting its numbers were released ahead of a Group of 20 finance chiefs meeting this week.

"Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world," World Bank president Robert Zoellick said in a statement.

"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."

The report came ahead of a two-day G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors scheduled to open Friday in Paris.

According to the latest edition of the bank's Food Price Watch, prices rose by 15 percent between October 2010 and January 2011.

The bank said that the price rise swelled the ranks living in extreme poverty, which it defines as under $1.25 a day per person, forcing poorer people to eat less and often less-nutritious food and increasing malnutrition.

The World Bank said that food prices were up 29 percent from a year ago and only 3.0 percent below the 2008 peaks.

In a December 2008 report, the bank's economists estimated that 105 million people had been pushed into extreme poverty, at the time fixed at $1 a day per person.

The World Bank cited two key factors that have prevented even more people falling into poverty: good harvests in many African countries have kept prices stable and moderate rises in global rice prices.

The lender said its Global Food Crisis Response Program is helping some 40 million people in need through $1.5 billion in support.

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