Famine and riot fears as extreme weather pushes up food prices
US drought triggers huge hike in maize prices, while rain in Brazil causes sugar cane prices to leap
EXTREME weather caused global food prices to jump by six per cent last month, the UN's food and agricultural organisation (FAO) reports.
After falling for three months in a row, prices for staple foods increased sharply in July. An extensive drought in the US pushed up maize prices by almost 23 per cent. Sugar leapt by 12 per cent in July after rain hampered sugarcane harvesting in Brazil, the world's largest producer. Delayed monsoons in India and a lack of rain in Australia also contributed to higher prices.
The cost of rice and dairy was unchanged, however, and meat fell 1.7 per cent due to a slump in pork prices, reported the FAO.
The news will stoke fears of a repeat of the 2007/08 food crisis, which hurt the world's poorest and triggered riots in countries such as Egypt and Haiti.
Oxfam told the BBC that since the beginning of the year, rising food prices and drought had caused a food crisis in the Sahel region of west and central Africa, affecting more than 18 million people over an area of land as wide as the US.
"This is not some gentle wake-up call - it's the same global alarm that's been screaming at us since 2008," said Hannah Stoddart, the charity’s head of economic justice policy.
But as the UK government plans to host a global hunger event on 12 August in London, the FAO has warned against countries restricting exports as they did in 2007/08.
Producers throttled exports in an attempt to control domestic prices, but this reduced supply on international markets and drove prices even higher.
Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist and grain analyst for the FAO, warns that there is potential for a similar situation to develop once more.
"There is an expectation that this time around we will not pursue bad policies and intervene in the market by restrictions, and if that doesn't happen we will not see such a serious situation as 2007/08," he said. "But if those policies get repeated, anything is possible." ·