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Rising Food Prices Could Push Millions In Asia Into Poverty, ADB Report Says

Rising food prices could force 64 million Asians into extreme poverty and damage the region’s economic growth this year, according to a report released on Tuesday from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Agence France-Presse reports (Morella, 4/26).

According to VOA News, “[s]ome food inflation was expected, but the report says that fast and persistent increases in the cost of many Asian food staples, coupled with sharply rising oil prices, could weaken Asian economies” (Padden, 4/26).

Output growth for some Asian countries that rely on food imports could fall by up to 0.6 percentage points if the 30% increase in food prices seen in the first two months of this year remains constant through December, the report said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “If that were to be accompanied by a 30% rise in global oil prices, gross domestic product growth in developing Asia could fall by up to 1.5 percentage points,” the newspaper writes.

The report continues, “Considering that both international prices of food and crude oil have risen by more than 30% in the first two months of 2011, such possibilities are real and cannot be ignored” (Brereton, 4/26).

“For poor families in developing Asia, who already spend more than 60% of their income on food, higher food prices further reduce their ability to pay for medical care and their children’s education,” ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee said, adding, “Left unchecked, the food crisis will badly undermine recent gains in poverty reduction made in Asia,” according to an ADB press release (4/26).

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