World May Suffer Food Riots as Grain Prices Surge, Economist Chalmin Says

The world may face social unrest including food riots in April as grain prices increase, said Philippe Chalmin, an economic adviser to the French government.

Crop damage caused by flooding in Australia and drought in Argentina is likely to boost grain prices in coming months, Chalmin, an economics professor at the University of Paris- Dauphine, said in an interview in the French capital today.

“I’m very concerned,” Chalmin said. “Around Easter we could start to see food riots.”

World food prices advanced to a record in December, partly driven by higher sugar prices, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization reported yesterday. The FAO’s cereal index rose to the highest level since August 2008, remaining about 37 points below the record level in April that year.

Corn prices rose 52 percent in Chicago last year, while wheat climbed 47 percent. Grain prices may rise further because of uncertainty about production in South America, FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian said yesterday.

“For the cereals, I expect very strong tension around March, April,” Chalmin said. “There are no more stocks available with the large exporters. It’s not because of sugar that you’re going to have food riots.”

Skyrocketing food prices in 2008 sparked protests and riots in almost three dozen poor nations including Haiti, Somalia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.

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