UN agency calls emergency summit over soaring global food prices

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The Independent Online

A United Nations agency has called a special meeting to discuss the recent spike in food prices, responding to fears of a repeat of the shortages that led to riots in parts of the world two years ago.

The announcement by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation followed Russia's decision to extend its ban on wheat exports. The ban has been held as partly responsible for a 5 per cent increase in food prices worldwide over the past two months, which has sent them to their highest level in two years. Christopher Matthews, a spokesman for the agency, said the meeting of the Inter-governmental Committee on Grains would be held on 24 September, probably in Rome.

A large number of UN member countries had expressed concern about a possible repeat of the 2008 food crisis, he added. The price rises triggered deadly riots in Mozambique this week and there has also been anger about soaring food costs in Egypt and Serbia. In Pakistan, where floods destroyed a fifth of the country's crops – the prices of many food items have risen by 15 per cent.

However, agency officials and other experts have been stressing that the conditions are different from 2008, when high oil prices and growing demand for biofuels pushed world food stocks to their lowest levels since 1982.

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