Resurgent global food prices, which posted record increases in the first two months of 2011, are again threatening to push millions of people in developing Asia into extreme poverty, says a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) titled Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia
Food prices had been expected to continue a gradual ascent in the wake of the sharp spike in 2008. The report says that fast and persistent increases in the cost of many Asian food staples since the middle of last year, coupled with crude oil reaching a 31-month high in March, are a serious setback for the region which has rebounded rapidly and strongly from the global economic crisis.
Domestic food inflation in many regional economies in Asia has averaged 10% in early 2011. The ADB study finds that a 10% rise in domestic food prices in developing Asia, home to 3.3 billion people, could push an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty based on the $1.25 a day poverty line.
"For poor families in developing Asia, who already spend more than 60% of their income on food, higher food prices further reduce their ability to pay for medical care and their children's education," said ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee. "Left unchecked, the food crisis will badly undermine recent gains in poverty reduction made in Asia."
The report adds that if the global food and oil price hikes seen in early 2011 persist for the remainder of the year, economic growth in the region could be reduced by up to 1.5 percentage points.