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U.N. agency to hold special meeting over food prices

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Food experts meeting this month on grain price fluctuations
  • Officials concerned with outbreak of food riots in Mozambique
  • Russia's drought to blame for escalating wheat prices, export ban

(CNN) -- Concerned with the recent outbreak of riots over food prices in the African nation of Mozambique, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced Saturday it will hold a special meeting this month to discuss rising wheat prices.

FAO officials, food experts and government representatives are scheduled to meet in Rome on Sept. 24 to find ways to ease the price fluctuation affecting grain markets, U.N. officials said in a statement.

Studies show that wheat prices soared in August, the biggest monthly rise in almost a year, officials said. They want to prevent a food crisis like ones in 2007 and 2008 that sparked riots in several nations.

Russia's restricted sale of grains, resulting from this summer's persistent drought, caused wheat prices to go up by five percent in August, the U.N. agency said. Russia recently banned grain exports.

Higher sugar and oilseed prices also contributed to the international food price hike, FAO officials said.

In the meantime, calm has returned to Mozambique's capital of Maputo after rioters protesting higher food prices caused mayhem in the city. Ten people died, including two children, officials said. More than 400 were injured, Mozambique officials said.

David Dawe, a senior economist at FAO, said Saturday that the so-called fundamentals of the wheat market are more solid than they were before 2007-2008. "The reaction in the wheat market is a bit overdone -- maybe substantially overdone," Dawe told the U.N. News Centre.

"There is uncertainty out there; agriculture markets are always uncertain because of the weather. But it would be premature to think that the situation would get worse," he said.

Mozambique remains one of the poorest nations in the world. Despite some positive growth trends in the agricultural sector, thousands of Mozambicans remain "food insecure," World Food Program officials say.