News & Reports News Year 2011 April , 2011 'Food inflation threatens millions in Asia'

'Food inflation threatens millions in Asia'


Soaring food and fuel prices can push tens of millions of Asians into extreme poverty by 2011 and derail economic growth in the region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says.

According to an ADB report released on Tuesday, domestic food price inflation hit an average of 10 percent in developing Asian countries at the start of the year.

The costs of essentials such as wheat, corn, sugar, edible oils, dairy products and meat underwent a double-digit rise, while the price of rice -- one of Asia's staple foods -- is also expected to peak.

If the situation is not contained, this can push at least 64 million people -- or nearly 2 percent of Asia's 3.3 billion people -- below the poverty line of USD 1.25 a day, the Manila-based bank warned.

Coupled with skyrocketing oil prices the current food price hike could also reduce economic growth in Asia by up to 1.5 percent this year.

While Asian economies have emerged strong from the 2008 global financial crisis, the rising cost of living has become a big concern in the region.

ADB's chief economist Rhee Changyong said Tuesday that if the global food crisis is left unchecked it could even undermine recent gains made in Asia's poverty reduction.

To stem the looming crisis many Asian countries have so far imposed export bans on their products, a practice that is not helping the cause, according to Rhee.

Instead, nations should strengthen social safety nets, increase investments in agricultural infrastructure and expand storage facilities, the ADB's senior economist said.

He added that these measures will ensure that food produce is not wasted, thus helping to keep prices in check.