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Rising food costs further pressure world hunger: report
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The soaring cost of food increased the number of hungry people in the world by 122 million in 2007 and now threatens to swell the malnourished population for a decade, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Children queue for free rice porridge distributed by student volunteers as a sign of their protest to the state of hunger and poverty in the country during a feeding program at a slum area in Manila July 5, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

The report quoted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) annual Food Security Assessment as saying that 982 million people were hungry last year, up 14 percent from a revised estimate of 860 million in 2006.

The number of new hungry people -- the biggest increase since the department started producing the report 16 years ago -- is roughly the population of Japan.

In the new assessment of 70 developing countries, USDA economists project that the number of malnourished will climb to 1. 2 billion people by 2017. A year ago, the economists saw that number falling to about 800 million over a decade.

Not only is hunger becoming an even bigger problem in sub- Saharan Africa -- already home to nearly half of the world's malnourished -- but the report warns for the first time that the hunger fight is running out of steam in Asia, where the 1960s Green Revolution put seeds for high-yield wheat and rice into the hands of millions of farmers.

Food prices are climbing around the world because farmers can't keep up with demand for grain. The biofuels boom in the U.S. and the new Asian middle class's appetite for grain-fed meat have combined to drain world grain stockpiles. Since January 2007, the USDA's index of all crop prices has climbed 44 percent.

(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2008)

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