The United Nation’s agency responsible for relieving hunger is drawing up plans to ration food aid in response to the spiralling cost of agricultural commodities. The World Food Programme is holding crisis talks to decide what aid to halt if new donations do not arrive in the short term.The WFP crisis talks come as the body sees the emergence of a “new area of hunger” in developing countries where even middle-class, urban people are being “priced out of the food market” because of rising food prices.
The warning suggests that the price jump in agricultural commodities – such as wheat, corn, rice and soyabeans – is having a wider impact than thought, hitting countries that have previously largely escaped hunger. “We are seeing a new face of hunger in which people are being priced out of the food market,” said Ms Sheeran. Hunger is now “affecting a wide range of countries”, she said, pointing to Indonesia, Yemen and Mexico. “Situations that were previously not urgent – they are now.”In response to increasing food prices, Egypt has widened its food rationing system for the first time in two decades while Pakistan has reintroduced a ration card system that was abandoned in the mid-1980s. Countries such as China and Russia are imposing price controls while others, such as Argentina and Vietnam, are enforcing foreign sales taxes or export bans. Importing countries are lowering their tariffs.
Food prices are rising on a mix of strong demand from developing countries; a rising global population; more frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change; and the biofuel industry’s appetite for grains, analysts say. Soyabean prices on Friday hit an all-time high of $14.22 a bushel while corn prices jumped to a fresh 12-year high of $5.25 a bushel. The price of rice and wheat has doubled in the past year while freight costs have also increased sharply on the back of rising fuel prices.
High food prices may force aid rationing