Philippines hit with high food prices due to India drought

The Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer, said Thursday it feared global food prices would spike this year as India suffers its worst drought in nearly four decades.

“There’s been a big drought in India which affected half of her territory and which may affect global food prices,” Economic Planning Undersecretary Dennis Arroyo told reporters.

Arroyo listed the Indian dry spell as among the potential obstacles to a full Philippine recovery this year from the global financial crisis, which dragged its economic growth last year to an 11-year low 0.9 percent.

He noted that the Philippines, like India a huge rice consumer, was among the worst nations hit in 2008 when the global prices of the grain spiked to 34-year highs.

The Philippines is expected to ramp up rice imports this year after two devastating tropical storms in September and October 2009 trimmed annual farm output growth to 0.1 percent.

“In 2008 you had the global food and fuel crisis. In 2009 we had the financial crisis. Now we’re seeing a global climate crisis. The world is vulnerable to this,” Arroyo said.

India, the world’s second most populous country, said last year it was suffering its worst drought since 1972.

Low rains had ravaged the country’s rice, cane sugar and groundnut crops.

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