A customer shops at a grocery store in Kuala Lumpur
World food prices hit a record in January, the U.N. said, while its hunger arm warned bad weather meant a looming era of food volatility, an issue that has already helped spark protests across the Middle East, reports Reuters. Up for the seventh month in a row, the closely watched U.N.
Food and Agriculture Organisation Food Price Index on Thursday touched its highest since records began in 1990, and topped the peak of 224.1 in June 2008, during the food crisis of 2007/08.
"The new figures clearly show that the upward pressure on world food prices is not abating. These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come," FAO economist and grains expert Abdolreza Abbassian said in a statement.
Hammering home the point the U.N. World Food Programme's executive director Josette Sheeran said weather related problems and a backdrop of rising prices were ominous.
"We are entering an era of food volatility and disruptions in supplies. This is a very serious business for the world,"
Sheeran told Reuters Insider TV on the sidelines of a U.N. Conference in London.
Surging food prices have come back into the spotlight after they helped fuel the discontent that toppled Tunisia's
president in January and have spilt over to Egypt and Jordan, raising expectations other countries in the region would secure grain stocks to reassure their populations.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick urged global leaders to "put food first" and wake up to the need to curb increased price volatility.
A series of weather events hitting key crops is likely to keep up the pressure on food prices as a massive cyclone
batters Australia, a major winter storm ravages U.S. crop belts and flooding hits key commodity producer Malaysia.
Drought in the Black Sea last year, heavy rains in Australia, dry weather in Argentina and anticipation of a spike in demand after unrest in North Africa and the Middle East has already pushed the price of wheat to its highest in 2-1/2 years. Some countries, particularly where food prices loom large in household budgets, have been building up food stocks to try to contain prices -- and to limit the political and social fallout.