The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for international cooperation to address rising food prices in Asia. The FAO says the cost of some staples has reached an all-time high and that measures are needed to protect the poor and prevent prices from getting out of control.
United Nations data show the cost of food in February reached the highest ever recorded.
Wednesday in Bangkok, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said in Asia the retail price of rice, the major staple, rose in Bangladesh by 33 percent from last year and in China and Indonesia by 23 percent.
Representatives from 20 Asian countries, international organizations, the United States, and Japan gathered in Bangkok Wednesday to address rising food prices.
The two-day conference is the first of a series the FAO is organizing around the world to address food security.
The delegates heard that rice costs are likely to stabilize this year because the region’s major producers, Thailand and Vietnam, are having good harvests. But FAO officials warn that rising fuel prices could push costs up further.
“FAO feels it is essential that countries consider their policy options and steer away from decisions that might exacerbate the situation,” FAO Deputy Director-General Changchui He said in a Tuesday press release from the FAO.
“During the last food crisis, the situation was aggravated when some countries imposed export restrictions or engaged in panic buying. Governments should focus on mitigating the impact of high food prices on the poor and at the same time need to take steps that favor investment in agriculture.”
The FAO will host the series in Central Asia, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Near East. The first seminar will take place on March 9-10 in Bangladesh, while the last seminar will be held in June.
The organization reported that food prices have been rising for eight consecutive months, with the exception of sugar.
Rising food prices are an important factor in boosting headline inflation in Asia. But this is hardly a trivial development for low-income families in the developing world, where the share of foodstuffs in household budgets – 46% in India and 33% in China – is 2-3 times the ratio in developed countries.