Hong Kong: Rising food prices have hit Asia’s poor so hard that many have taken to the streets in protest, but experts see few signs of respite from the growing problem.
Vietnam said it would suspend rice exports, and India did so last year, said Duncan Macintosh, Manila-based development director for the International Rice Research Institute.
An array of factors, from rising food demand and high oil prices to global warming, could make high costs for essentials such as rice, wheat and milk a permanent fixture, they say.
“The indications are in general pointing to high prices,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior grains analyst at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, told AFP.
The agency’s figures show food prices globally soared nearly 40% last year, helping stoke protests in Myanmar, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Yet Asian economic growth is a key reason why prices rose, said Joachim von Braun, from the International Food Policy Research Institute.
“High growth in per capita income, especially in Asia, is driving demand for food,” said von Braun, the Washington-based group’s director general.
At the same time, Asia’s growth has left many of its poor behind, he added. They spend between 50 and 70% of their meagre incomes on food, making price rises especially debilitating.
“There was also a lack of investment in agriculture, particularly in science and technology and in irrigation,” von Braun said.