By Svetlana Kovalyova and John Mair
MANILA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Record high global food prices showed no sign of relenting following a rash of catastrophic weather, highlighted by a major U.S. snowstorm and a cyclone in Australia, which could put yet more pressure on prices and spark further unrest around the world.
The closely watched U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Food Price Index on Thursday touched its highest level since records began in 1990.
The index rose for the seventh month in a row to 231 in January, topping the peak of 224.1 in June 2008, when the world was last gripped in a food crisis.
“These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come,” FAO economist and grains expert Abdolreza Abbassian said in a statement.
Surging food prices have helped fuel the discontent that toppled Tunisia’s president in January and that has spilled over to Egypt and Jordan, raising expectations other countries in the region would secure grain stocks to reassure their populations.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick urged global leaders to “put food first” and wake up to the need to curb price volatility.
“We are going to be facing a broader trend of increasing commodity prices, including food commodity prices,” he told Reuters in an interview.