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FAO Calls For Special Meeting To Address Global Food Price Spikes

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “has called a special meeting on 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 Associated Press reports. The inter-governmental committee on grains will meet on Sept. 24, most likely in Rome, according to FAO spokesperson Christopher Matthews. “He said a large number of member countries had expressed concern about a possible repeat of the 2008 food crisis,” the AP reports (9/3).

“The purpose of holding this meeting is for exporting and importing countries to engage in constructive discussions on appropriate reactions to the current market situation,” an FAO statement said, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Javier, 9/2). The meeting announcement “followed Russia’s decision to extend its ban on wheat exports,” the AP notes (9/3).

On Thursday, Russia said it would continue to ban “wheat exports into late 2011, pushing up the grain’s price and sparking fears of supply shortages and broader unrest over rising food costs,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Russia will consider ending the ban “after next year’s harvest is gathered,” said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (Pleven/Iosebashvili/Polansek, 9/3). “Putin said he extended the ban to make sure the crops have recovered after a devastating drought and wildfires destroyed about 20 percent of this year’s crop. The ban also covers wheat flour, barley, rye and corn,” a second AP article notes (Shore, 9/2).

In related news, the Mozambican government on Thursday said seven people died and at least 280 were injured in food riots that broke out this week in the capital of Maputo, the Financial Times reports (Mundy, 9/2).

“Mozambicans saw the price of a loaf of bread rise 25 percent in the past year – from about four to five U.S. cents, and fuel and water costs also have risen,” the AP/Washington Post reports. “The trouble this week started Wednesday … Protesters, most of them young men, started marching peacefully but then began throwing stones, burning tires and looting shops. Police opened fire, and tourists and business people were trapped in their hotels or at the airport as mobs cut off the airport road,” according to the news service.

Unrest because of rising food prices have occurred in other parts of the world too. “In Pakistan, the prices of many food items have risen by 15 percent or more following devastating floods that destroyed a fifth of the country’s crops and agricultural infrastructure. Flooding has also hit distribution networks, leading to shortages. In China, officials are threatening to punish price gougers, while in Serbia, a 30 percent hike in the price of cooking oil reported for next week has led to warnings of demonstrations by trade unions,” the news service reports. Also recent protests over rising food prices in Egypt, “where half the population depends on subsidized bread,” have left at least one person dead (Bryson, 9/2).

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