13 Feb 2011

Arab uprisings seen as harbinger of instability

11:56 am on 13 February 2011

A leading development economist says uprisings across the Arab world are just a foretaste of the instability facing other poor states unless a global food crisis is tackled.

Anger over rising food prices has been an ingredient in a mix of grievances that triggered the fall of leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and is now putting the heat on others in Algeria and Jordan.

Adviser Jeffrey Sachs says the root causes apply across an already unstable belt of states, stretching from Iraq through the Sahara to the shores of West Africa.

Mr Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, says the possible emergence this year of China as a food importer would only make matters worse for poor African states already heavily reliant on food imports because of weak farming sectors.

Global food prices tracked by the United Nations Food and Agriculture organisation reached record levels last month, as growing demand and erratic weather conditions drove up staples such as wheat.