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Food price hikes could hurt millions, experts say

Poor will suffer most as staple food costs spiral

A global price hike in food items will hit poor hardest in Bangladesh A global price hike in food items will hit poor hardest in Bangladesh
  • ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • September 3, 2012
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A global food crisis, fueled by devastating droughts, has sent the cost of many staple foods spiraling and is likely to hit Bangladesh especially hard.

A World Bank report, released last week, says global food prices rose 10 percent in July, with maize and soybeans reaching all-time peaks due to an unprecedented summer of droughts and high temperatures in both the United States and Eastern Europe.

Home to more than 152 million people, with over 30 percent of them living below the poverty line, Bangladesh imports millions of tons of grain every year to meet its deficit. Experts say this makes it especially vulnerable to this latest round of price hikes.

“This year the country has a million tons of wheat and 30 million tons of rice," said Rezaul Karim Talukder, a consultant with the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.

"We are self sufficient in rice, but we need to import almost the same amount of wheat this year, and it is going to be expensive.”

Talukder added that some countries are restricting exports. Wheat supplies to the global market dropped by 12 percent in August alone.

“We import wheat from Russia and the Ukraine and we have enough for six months. In August the wheat price was US$325 per ton, but it's likely to exceed US$332 by December. If the supply declines and the price soars, the poor will be the worst sufferers,” he said.

The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh sells basic food items at relatively cheap prices across the country. Its spokesman Humayun Kabir agrees that his agency can only guarantee supplies for the next six to seven months.

Dr. Naznin Ahmed, a researcher and food expert at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, fears that Bangladesh will be rocked by another food crisis like the one in 2007-08.

“That time, it was the extremely poor who suffered most, as food prices exceeded their buying capacity. The government and business groups must take extra measures to keep the market stable."

UK-based charity Oxfam predicts that the currently skyrocketing prices will drive millions more around the world into hunger and malnourishment, in addition to the nearly one billion who are already too poor to feed themselves.

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