WASHINGTON - Leaders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank warned Thursday that surging commodity prices are leading to serious food shortages in the developing world and prompting a new round of inflationary pressures amid a global economic downturn.
"Inflation may be back," said IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a press conference before the weekend's spring meetings of the two institutions, "It's a key concern."
He said food prices have increased 48 percent since the end of 2006, noting IMF analysis shows that countries in Africa and Asia will be most negatively impacted by sharp rise in food prices.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick also warned climbing food prices would set back efforts to reduce poverty by about seven years.
"While many are worried about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs," Zoellick said. "With little margin for survival, rising prices too often means fewer meals."
He urged industrial nations to make up a 500-billion-dollar food gap required by the UN's World Food Program to meet emergency needs.
"Meeting such as this one are usually about talk. Words can focus attention. They can build momentum. But we can't be satisfied with studies, papers and talk," said the World Bank chief.