A U.N. food agency has called a special meeting on the recent spike in food prices in response to concerns of a repeat of the shortages that led to riots in parts of the world two years ago.
The announcement Friday by the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization followed Russia's decision to extend its ban on wheat exports. The ban has been held as partly responsible for the 5 percent increase in food prices worldwide over the last two months to reach their highest level in two years.
Agency spokesman Christopher Matthews said the meeting of the inter-governmental committee on grains will be held Sept. 24, most likely in Rome. He said a large number of member countries had expressed concern about a possible repeat of the 2008 food crisis.
A food price rise has triggered deadly riots in Mozambique this week. The government there said rioting caused $3 million in losses to both productivity and property damage.
Elsewhere, there has also been anger over rising prices in Egypt and Serbia, while in Pakistan — where floods destroyed a fifth of the country's crops — the prices of many food items have risen 15 percent.
However, agency officials and other experts have been stressing that the conditions are different from 2008, when high oil prices and growing demand for biofuels pushed world food stocks to their lowest levels since 1982.
Drought in Russia — and the country's subsequent restrictions on wheat exports — forced a sudden sharp rise in wheat prices, the agency said. Higher sugar and oilseed prices also were factors in the higher index.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went on television this week to announce he has extended Russia's ban on wheat exports until next year's harvest to ensure it has bounced back from the drought and wildfires that destroyed 20 percent of the crop this year.
Even in the U.S., the issue of crop yields has raised concerns. Corn prices surged Friday to a 2010 high of $4.645 a bushel - just shy of the 2009 record of $4.70 - on signs the annual yield may fall short of government forecasts.