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Impact of rising food prices felt in East Asia

Michael Figueroa's picture

World Bank President Robert Zoellick is calling for a New Deal for global food policy – a reference to the 1930s Great Depression-era initiatives of American president Franklin D. Roosevelt – to revive the “forgotten” Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty and hunger.  He was speaking at the D.C.-based think tank Center for Global Development on the looming specter of widespread malnutrition and starvation triggered by rapidly rising fuel and food prices.  Zoellick made an appeal to the United States, the European Union, Japan and other OECD countries to close a $500 million funding gap faced by the World Food Program.  The WFP is the United Nations’ frontline agency focusing on populations most at risk of starvation.  WFP executive director Josette Sheeran noted in March 6 testimony (pdf) before the European Parliament’s Development Committee that food prices have risen by 40 percent just since June of last year.

The impact of climbing food prices is making itself felt throughout East Asia.  In Tuesday’s press release launching the latest half-yearly East Asia and Pacific Update from the World Bank, Jim Adams, Vice President for the East Asia and Pacific region, made the point:  “While the sub- prime crisis will have its impacts – possibly on some countries more than others – the more immediate concern is that in virtually every East Asian country, inflation is climbing to uncomfortable levels.  We are already seeing real incomes of poor people living in rural and urban areas decline substantially as a result of higher food prices.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Food Situation Portal documents measures taken by China, Indonesia, Rep. of Korea , Malaysia, and Mongolia to limit the impact of soaring cereal prices.  The portal also includes Indonesia, North Korea and Timor Leste on its list of countries in crisis requiring external assistance.  While not on FAO’s list, the Philippines is experiencing its own agricultural crisis, discussed by Karol Ilagan on The Daily PCIJ.

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