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Food Prices Are Soaring: 5 Questions for Economist José Cuesta

Karin Rives's picture

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Rice grains in bowl. Photo: Arne Hoel | The World Bank

Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank

The numbers are jarring: Global prices for key food staples such as corn and soybean were at an all-time high in July 2012, with corn rising 25 percent and soybeans 17 percent in a single month.

Globally, food prices jumped 7 percent between April and July. In some countries, people now pay more than twice as much for sorghum [1] as they did a year earlier, the latest issue of the World Bank’s Food Price Watch shows.

This is expected to hit certain regions with high food imports, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, especially hard.

We’re looking at a significant price shock, but does that mean we’re headed for a food crisis similar to the one we experienced in 2008? World Bank economist José Cuesta, the author of the quarterly Food Price Watch report, gives his perspective on the situation.

MENA: Economists finding some good news

Alison Schafer's picture

In Istanbul, World Bank economists taking a hard look at how the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are weathering the financial crisis are finding some good news. The World Bank and the IMF are holding their annual meetings in Turkey, and a status update on the MENA region shows some resilience.

Shamshad Akhtar, the World Bank’s new vice president for the region, said at a press conference today that MENA’s economy grew by almost 6.2 percent in 2008. But Akhtar says the region has been shaken by what she calls the “Triple-F phenomena”—food, fuel and the financial crisis. She says the food crisis has hit the region hardest, in part because of a growing population and a heavy dependence on imported food. But, she says, despite slowing growth, down to 2.2 percent, the region is faring better than many others.

 

 

Akhtar told reporters: “The key message we retain from all this is: the MENA region has weathered the triple crisis well so far.” But there is an “immediate danger of rising unemployment and resurgence of poverty.”