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Expect food price shock

World food prices continued to rise sharply in December, bringing them close to the crisis levels that provoked shortages and riots in poor countries three years ago, according to a United Nations data.

business Updated: Jan 07, 2011 00:31 IST

World food prices continued to rise sharply in December, bringing them close to the crisis levels that provoked shortages and riots in poor countries three years ago, according to a United Nations data.

Prices are expected to remain high this year, prompting concern that the world may be approaching another crisis, although economists cautioned that many factors, like adequate stockpiles of key grains, could prevent a serious problem.

The UN data measures commodity prices on the world export market. Those are generally far removed from supermarket prices in wealthy countries like the US. In this country, food price inflation has been relatively tame, and prices are forecast to rise only 2 to 3 percent this year.

But the situation is often different in poor countries that rely more heavily on imports.

The food price index of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation rose 32 per cent from June to December. In December, the index was higher than it was in June 2008, its previous peak. The index is not adjusted for inflation, however, making an exact comparison over time difficult.

The global index was pushed up last year by rising prices for cooking oils, grains, sugar and meat, all of which could continue to remain high or rise. New York Times