World Bank: Rising food prices means governments should strengthen social net

“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,” Kim said in a statement. “Countries must strengthen their targeted programs to ease the pressure on the most vulnerable population, and implement the right policies.”

The Obama administration and Congress have sparred over how to combat the current drought in the United States, the world’s largest exporter of corn and soybeans.

Unable to pass a broader farm bill, the House passed a more narrow drought relief package before leaving Washington in early August. But the Senate, which had passed a farm bill that included drought protection, declined to take up that measure, saying the House should have passed its own farm bill. 

The Federal Reserve, in its periodical look at the economy, also expressed concern this week about the rise in commodity prices. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, droughts in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have dragged down wheat production. Rice prices, however, dropped by 4 percent. 

At the same time, the World Bank says it does not yet believe conditions will get as bad as in 2008, when rising food prices led to instability, and even riots, in a string of countries around the world. 

Still, the bank also said that a spike in energy prices and continued weather issues could force the same sort of hike in grain prices that happened four years ago.