* Drought pushes up prices for corn, wheat, soybeans
* World Bank urges countries to ease pressure on poor
* APEC calls on governments to avoid export bans
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Aug 30 World food prices jumped 10
percent in July as drought parched crop lands in the United
States and Eastern Europe, the World Bank said in a statement
urging governments to shore up programs that protect their most
From June to July, corn and wheat prices rose by 25 percent
each, soybean prices by 17 percent, and only rice prices went
down, by 4 percent, the World Bank said on Thursday.
Overall, the World Bank's Food Price Index, which tracks the
price of internationally traded food commodities, was 6 percent
higher than in July of last year, and 1 percent over the
previous peak of February 2011.
U.S. soybean futures hit a record high of $17.78 per bushel
in trading on Thursday, while corn futures remained near the
record of $8.49 set earlier this month.
"We cannot allow these historic price hikes to turn into a
lifetime of perils as families take their children out of school
and eat less nutritious food to compensate for the high prices,"
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. "Countries must
strengthen their targeted programs to ease the pressure on the
most vulnerable population, and implement the right policies."
"Africa and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable, but
so are people in other countries where the prices of grains have
gone up abruptly," Kim added.
A severe drought in the United States has sharply cut corn
and soybean yields this year, while a dry summer in Russia,
Ukraine and Kazakhstan has hurt wheat output.
The World Bank said its experts do not foresee a repeat of
2008, when a food price spike triggered riots in some countries.
"However, negative factors -- such as exporters pursuing
panic policies, a severe El Nino, disappointing Southern
hemisphere crops, or strong increases in energy prices -- could
cause significant further grain prices hikes such as those
experienced four years ago," the bank said.
Separately, finance ministers from the 21-member Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group issued a statement at
their meeting on Thursday in Moscow urging countries "to avoid
export bans" in response to food price concerns.
APEC member Russia imposed a temporary embargo on grain
exports two years ago after crops failed.
APEC leaders are expected to address food security concerns
when they meet next week in Vladivostok.
"I think this is one of the areas where APEC member
economies can really work together ... to ensure the
inflationary results of drought do not impact the poorest and
most disadvantaged people in the world," a U.S. State Department
official told reporters on Wednesday.
But Colin Roche, a spokesman for the development group Oxfam
International, said it was not clear whether governments were
prepared to take action "before prices spiral out of control and
push more people into hunger."
The group of 20 leading economies has delayed any decision
on joint action until after the U.S. Agriculture Department's
September estimate of this year's harvest.
"This 'wait and see' attitude is unacceptable especially
when the World Bank report has warned that prices are expected
to remain high and volatile," Roche said. "Oxfam is already
seeing the devastating impact of food price volatility in
developing countries that rely on food imports."