Food prices expected to keep rising
Although international food prices decreased slightly in March from their historic peak in February 2011, the most recent OCHA Global Food Security Update shows that there is no evidence to suggest fundamental changes to the general upward trend of food prices. According to World Food Programme (WFP) monitoring, the basic cost of the food basket has increased in 44 of 63 countries monitored during the first quarter of 2011. Prices are currently over 10 per cent higher than the five-year average and are extremely volatile.
Increases in food prices and other commodities such as crude oil are cause for concern because they have been a factor in protests and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Most recently, there have been food price-related protests in Burkina Faso and Uganda. There is also considerable uncertainty about what effect political instability in parts of the world and the recent disaster in Japan will have on international prices.
The World Bank estimates that rising food prices have resulted in a net increase in extreme poverty of some 44 million people in low- and middle-income countries since June 2010. If prices rise 10 per cent from current levels, simulations show that an additional 10 million people would fall below the extreme poverty line.
OCHA will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis to analyse the relative risks resulting from high food prices in countries with humanitarian operations.