By Tiffany Hsu
10:40 AM PDT, April 25, 2012
The cost of food around the world is rising again, due to bad weather, soaring oil costs and strong demand in Asia for imports, according to the World Bank.
Global food prices soared 8% between December and March after dipping late last year from record highs, according to the organization's quarterly index. Unless food producers manage to funnel more product into the market, economists worry that prices could continue to spike.
“After four months of consecutive price declines, food prices are on the rise again, threatening the food security of millions of people,” said Otaviano Canuto, the World Bank’s vice president for poverty reduction and economic management, in a statement.
Of all the major staple crops, only rice avoided a price bump. But the cost of maize around the world is up 9%, soybean oil is up 7%, wheat increased 6% and sugar rose 5%.
In the U.S., those increases have resulted in grocery store goods costing 6.9% more in the first quarter than they did a year earlier, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which measures a standard basket of cheese, meats and other items. Americans spend less than 10% of their disposable annual income on food -- less than any other country.
The USDA has long predicted that food prices would spike in 2012, due in large part to high commodity and energy prices. National Restaurant Assn. economist Bruce Grindy wrote last year that whole food prices could reach their strongest annual gains in more than three decades.
Some regions are suffering more than others. In Africa, prices are especially steep due to the continent’s dependence on imports as well as trade restrictions between nations, hoarding, civil unrest and bad weather. In Belarus, wheat prices are up 92%; maize costs 71% more in Mexico, according to the World Bank.
Though prices are still below the record highs set in 2011, the cost of food is being inflated in large part by the 13% run-up in crude oil prices in the most recent quarter, according to the World Bank. The weak dollar is also a factor.
Watch World Bank experts discuss the rise in prices below:
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