4 Mar 2011

Global food prices soar to highest since 1990

8:00 am on 4 March 2011

The United Nations' Food Price Index rose 2.2% last month to its highest since the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) began monitoring prices in 1990.

Apart from sugar, prices for all commodity groups have risen, and the UN says they could rise further.

It's also warning that spikes in the price of oil - caused by political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East - could worsen the already precarious situation in the food market.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it's extremely concerned about the situation, citing the "impact on the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in the low-income countries, but not only there".

The prices of cereals like wheat, rice and maize have risen by 70% in the past year, mainly because of droughts in eastern Europe and floods in Australia - both major crop producers.

The FAO notes, however, that agricultural areas in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have begun to recover from last year's droughts and wildfires.