High and volatile food prices are on track to become the ‘new normal’, according to the World Bank, which has urged action to support sustainable agriculture, nutrition programmes and safety nets.
Global food prices were stable after reaching new record highs in July, but remained close to 2008 levels, the World Bank said in its latest quarterly “Food Price Watch” report. It warned that more expensive food on a global basis would increase hunger and malnutrition in the world’s poorest regions.
“A new norm of high prices seems to be consolidating,” said Otaviano Canuto, World Bank Group’s vice president for poverty reduction and economic management. “The world cannot afford to be complacent to this trend.”
The World Bank’s food price report said that a lack of ‘panic policies’, such as imposing export restrictions when prices rise, has helped to stabilise world food prices. However, prices are still high, particularly for grains, which are 12% above their levels a year ago. Maize is 17% above last year and wheat prices have increased by 24%, largely due to a particularly harsh drought in the corn belt of the American Midwest and ongoing dry conditions in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia – the three largest Black Sea exporters – as well as in Australia and the EU.
“Although we haven’t seen a food crisis as the one of 2008, food security should remain a priority,” Canuto said. “We need additional efforts to strengthen nutrition programmes, safety nets, and sustainable agriculture, especially when the right actions can bring about exceptional benefits.”
UN agencies estimate that 870m people are undernourished, and child malnutrition accounts for more than a third of all mortality in children under five.
The full World Bank report is available online here .