New Delhi, Apr 9 : The Director General of United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jacques Diouf, on Wednesday said that food riots which have struck several impoverished countries could spread with shortages and high prices set to continue for some time.
A combination of high oil and fuel prices, rising demand for food in Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, bad weather and speculation on futures markets have pushed up food prices, prompting violent protests in a handful of poor states.
Diouf said during his trip to India that there was a growing risk of social instability in countries where families spent more than half their income on food.
"We are seeing riots around the world because of price hikes. We have seen it in Kenya, we have seen it in my own country Senegal, in Guinea, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt and Haiti recently," said Diouf.
"There is a risk that this will spread because the causes are the same. Important increase in prices in countries where 50 to 60 per cent of the income goes to food, therefore the difficulty for poor people to address one of their most basic needs, which is food," he added.
Five people have been killed in a week of demonstrations in Haiti over high food prices, while unions in the West African nation of Burkina Faso called a general strike over soaring food and fuel costs.
He said world cereal stocks were enough to meet demand for eight to 12 weeks, while grain supplies were lowest since 1980s.
However, Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar expressed confidence that country's food situation is comfortable with sufficient stock.
"Our Rabi arrival will start from 14th or 15th of this month. Wheat arrival will start in market and procurement will also start. Our preparation for Kharif is extremely good," said Pawar.
Price pressures had been building for several weeks, in large part driven by foodstuffs, and the government has stepped in with a string of duty cuts and export restrictions.
Analysts say fiscal steps were unlikely to roll back prices, and have said ensuring food security by boosting domestic production was a priority.
Inflation in India raced to its highest in more than three years in March at seven per cent, pulling down the stock market and sending bond yields higher, and analysts said pressure was building on the Reserve Bank to act.
For the second week in a row, markets were surprised by the size of the jump in inflation, which now stands at its highest since December 4, 2004, and is way above where officials want it.
The ruling Communist-backed UPA coalition, under pressure to check prices ahead of State and national polls this year and next, took fresh steps to calm inflationary pressures.