Surging food prices bite across Asia

SYDNEY, May 5, 2008 (AFP) – From the rice paddies of Asia to the wheat fields of Australia, the soaring price of food is breaking the budgets of the poor and raising the spectres of hunger and unrest, experts warn. A billion people in Asia are seriously affected by the surging costs of daily staples such as rice and bread, the director general of the Asian Development Bank, Rajat Nag, has said.

“This includes roughly about 600 million people who live on just under a dollar a day, which is the definition of poverty, and another 400 million who are just above that borderline,” he said.

Globally, the World Bank last month estimated that 33 countries were threatened with political and social unrest because of the skyrocketing costs of food and energy.

Across Asia, workers made a campaign against high food prices their May Day battle cry last Thursday in marches through cities including the capitals of Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

While the demonstrations were mainly peaceful, concern is growing over the potential for political instability and unrest if high prices persist.

“Once people get hungry they start also getting quite desperate and take desperate measures,” Damien Kingsbury