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Galloping inflation jeopardises UN food programmes

1 April 2008

GENEVA – Escalating food price rises were threatening the UN’s ability to feed around 73 million people in 2008 and were also causing major problems for the world’s poorest countries, the World Food Programme, WFP, said Tuesday.

The organisation had been forced to increase its budget by an extra half a billion dollars for 2008 in February, from 2.9 billion dollars budget to 3.4 billion.

Since then, the cost of grains, pulses and oil had again risen by 20 percent driven by high energy price rises, bad harvests and the shift to bio-fuels.

WFP said it was concerned about a rise in malnutrition and under nourishment for children as families were already eating less food and less nutritious food.

There were still a billion people living on less than a dollar a day and the hike was worst for those who were already spending as much as 80 percent of their money on food.

The WFP said the problems caused by higher food costs could be seen in all parts of the world.

There had been a "catastrophic effect" in Syria for example where price rises had coincided with lower oil revenues; in Indonesia the government had expanded its rice subsidy programme by 50 percent to reach 80 million people and West Africa had been hit by high rice, palm oil and wheat prices.

There had been food riots in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco.

WFP was trying to mobilise world attention and support through governments, the private sector and individuals.

It warned there was also a risk of a major setback in attaining the Millennium Development Goals, set by the UN, and reducing the proportion of extreme poor and hungry people by 2015.

[Copyright dpa 2008]