- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 10, 2008

Anger over spiraling world food prices is becoming increasingly violent.

Deadly clashes over higher costs for staple foods have broken out in Egypt, Haiti and several African states, and an international food expert yesterday warned of more clashes with no short-term relief in sight.

“World food prices have risen 45 percent in the last nine months and there are serious shortages of rice, wheat and [corn],” Jacques Diouf, head of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said at a major conference in New Delhi yesterday.

“There is a risk that this unrest will spread in countries where 50 to 60 percent of income goes to food,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a personal appeal for calm in Haiti yesterday. U.N. peacekeepers were called to protect the residence of President Rene Preval from rioters protesting sharp increases in the prices of food and fuel. At least five people have been reported killed in disturbances since last week after the cost of rice doubled and gas prices rose a third time since February.

A supermarket, several gas station marts and a government rice warehouse were looted, the Associated Press reported.

Video:Haitian leader’s pleas fail to stop riots

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif this week promised concessions to workers in the industrial city of Mahalla al-Kobra after two days of rioting over rising food prices left one protester dead.

The clashes were described as the most serious anti-government demonstrations since 1977 riots erupted over soaring bread prices.

The FAO has reported popular unrest over rising food prices in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique, Bolivia and Uzbekistan, among other countries.

The Philippines, the world’s biggest rice importer, moved to head off protests after global prices doubled in a year. Financial giant Credit Suisse yesterday reported that higher rice prices would cut the country’s gross domestic product this year by at least 1 percent.

The government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo tightened controls of domestic rice sales and strengthened security at government storehouses to prevent hoarding. Anyone convicted of “stealing rice from the people” will be thrown in jail, she warned.

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney yesterday said the Bush administration would offset any rice shortfall with cuts from other exporters.

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said earlier this month that nearly three dozen countries face social unrest because of surging food and fuel prices. For the countries most at risk, “there is no margin for survival,” he said.

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, was in Washington last month making an urgent appeal for funds to compensate for rising prices.

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