World Bank President Robert Zoellick has warned that food prices had reached “dangerous levels” and could hamper political transitions in Egypt, Tunisia, the wider Middle East and Central Asia.
“The area that obviously bears watching is where you have a combination of political upheaval and food price stress.”
The World Bank said that global food prices on average were 29% higher in January than a year earlier and just 3% below a peak reached in 2008, when the rising cost of food sparked deadly riots in many parts of the developing world.
The rising costs had pushed 44 million people back into extreme poverty, and Zoellick urged leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) block of leading global economies to make the food crisis their top priority. G20 finance ministers are meeting Friday and Saturday in France.
“Global food prices are now at dangerous levels. It is already clear recent price rises for food are causing pain and suffering to poor people around the globe.”
“Given the poverty levels (in central Asia) ... there’s a stress point that could have social and political implications,” he said.