– News Desk : Rising food prices is a major challenge across the globe, which needs multilateral efforts to address it, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said.
may be coming out of one crisis – the financial and economic crisis –
but we are facing new risks and wrenching challenges high and volatile
food prices; high fuel prices with knock-on effects for food and,
through food for stability; political upheaval in the Middle East and
North Africa; turmoil in Cote d’Ivoire; repeated natural disasters; rising inflation in emerging markets with some risks of
overheating; sovereign debt
issues in Europe,” Zoellick told reporters at a news conference in Washington on Thursday.
that the high and volatile food price is the biggest threat to the poor
around the world, he said the numbers tell a grim story of persistent
grinding pressure on the world’s poor.
“Food prices were not the
cause of the crises in the Middle East and North Africa, but they are an
aggravating factor. Our latest
Food Price Watch shows that there is double-digit food price inflation
in Egypt and Syria. It shows that commodity
price spikes particularly hurt poor countries,” he said.
Zoellick said data from 46 countries from 2007 to 2010 suggests that low
and low-middle-income countries have experienced higher levels of food
price inflation compared to upper-middle and high-income countries,
particularly when international prices spike.
“With food prices, we
are at a real tipping point. Food prices are 36 per cent above the
levels of a year ago and remain close to the 2008 peak. Already 44
million people have fallen into poverty since June of last year,” he
“If the Food Price Index rises by just another 10 per cent,
we estimate another 10 million people will fall into extreme poverty
that is where people live on less than USD 1.25 a day. A 30 per cent
increase would add 34 million more people to the world’s poor, who
number 1.2 billion,” he said.
Zoellick said the G20 can play a
leading role in this.
“I believe multilateralism must be focused on
doing real things in the short term while building toward mid and
longer-term actions,” he said adding
that France has made a top priority for its Presidency of the G20 the
topic of food.
“We are working closely with the G20, and I believe
we can take a number of important steps that will help in two key areas
food price volatility and food security.
We are going to be using these meetings with the G187 to help prepare
the way,” he said.
Noting that more can be done on the production
side, too, Zoellick said the World Bank is now investing about USD 7 billion a year in improving
agricultural production, from seeds to irrigation to storage.
are investing all across the value chain.
“One area of focus is
agricultural research helping to develop better seeds. We are discussing
with France and the G20 about perhaps intersecting that with some of
the anxieties about climate change
and reviewing some of the research priorities as we boost support for
the 15 key research centres in agricultural research around the globe,”
Zoellick said these goals are achievable in coming months
and he is looking for results at the meeting of G20 agriculture
ministers in France in June.
“I look forward to continuing to work
with the French and others to make this happen. One of the key areas
related to the food situation is the turmoil in the Middle
East and North Africa. While there will be varying speed and scope to
the initiatives in each country, the World Bank Group is focused on
listening and helping countries move ahead,” he said.