High food prices to make 64 million Asians, 30 million Indians extremely poor: ADB

NEW DELHI: Soaring food prices, which averaged 10 per cent in many economies this year, can push close to 30 million Indians and 64 million people in the Asian region into extreme poverty, an ADB report said today.

Titled as ‘Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia’, the report claimed that a 10 per cent rise in domestic food prices could push 64 million Asians to subsist below the poverty line level of USD 1.25 a day.

In case of India , while food inflation at 10 per cent will render 23 million people in rural area and 6.68 million living in cities as dirt poor, a 20 per cent rise in food prices will throw 45.64 million rural people and 13.36 million urban people into the woeful state.

“For poor families in developing Asia, who already spend more than 60 per cent of their income on food, higher food prices further reduce their ability to pay for medical care and their children’s education,” ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee said.

“Left unchecked, the food crisis will badly undermine recent gains in poverty reduction made in Asia,” Rhee added.

According to the preliminary data released by Planning Commission last week, India’s poverty is estimated to have declined to 32 per cent in 2009-10 from 37.2 per cent five years ago.

The short-term outlook looks bleak, as food prices are likely to continue with their upward trend because of factors such as production shortfalls, rising demand for food from more populo US and wealthier developing countries and shrinking available agricultural land, said the report.

Other dampening factors behind the double-digit rise, seen in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar, edible oils, dairy products and meat, include a weak US dollar, high oil prices and subsequent export bans by several key food producing nations.

Some countries like China , India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Thailand are fighting inflation through tighter monetary policy.

“To the extent that inflationary pressures are supply- driven, as in 2007-2008, higher interest rates may be less effective in controlling it,” the report said.

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