Era of cheap food over: ADB

SINGAPORE, April 22, 2008 (AFP) – The era of cheap food is over, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) official said Tuesday. Rajat Nag, the ADB’s managing director general, said a variety of factors have contributed to soaring food prices which, even if they ease, will not return to the lower levels which the world became used to.

“We just have to accept the era of cheap food is over,” Nag told the Foreign Correspondents’ Association.

The ADB last week said soaring food prices have hampered Asia’s fight against poverty and some countries may need foreign aid to feed their hungry millions.

“I don’t think we are talking in any way about a famine situation. The supplies are not where we need them and that is a distribution problem. They are not available where the demands are,” Nag said.

Global rice demand rose 0.9 percent last year, more than the production increase of 0.7 percent, he said.

While Asia’s stock of rice is its lowest in decades, the ADB believes it is still enough to meet demand, Nag said.

“So we do want to temper what sometimes may appear to me is a bit of an over-reaction.”