The prices of staple foods such as rice could remain high for the next three years, hindering the battle against poverty, a top World Bank official said yesterday.
Food prices had risen at a "startling" speed, giving governments and communities little time to respond, said Juan Jose Daboub, the bank’s managing director.
“This phenomenon is here to stay for a few years. This is not a few weeks, a few months thing. It could be two or three years ... It’s not a short-term phenomenon,” Daboub said at a forum in Singapore.
Escalating global prices of foods such as corn, rice and wheat have sparked protests in many countries, including in Asia, and raised the fear that many of the world’s poor face hunger.
“For those who live in Asia, an international rice price of over US$1,000 a tonne is unprecedented, and it hurts, because rice makes up one-third of the daily calorie intake of the typical household,” Daboub said.
Food prices in US dollar terms were more than two-and-a-half times higher than in 2002, he said.
“In real terms, rice prices are now higher than at any time since the commodity price shocks in the mid-1970s,” he said.
About 75 percent of the food price increases occurred over the past 16 months, and more than half in just over the last four months, he said.