Soaring global food prices are now hurting millions of poor people according to Oxfam, which says food prices have ratcheted up last month.

Global food prices rose 40% between June last year and June this year, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has published its food price index which shows a sharp rise in June, after a steep increase in the price of sugar.

"In the last month, a significant contributor to the increase in sugar price is a 14% spike in global sugar prices due in part to a decrease in Brazil's production forecast," says Oxfam.

Its warned that the pressure to divert sugar into biofuels to offset high petrol prices has now pushed the price up artificially.

"Biofuel mandates are creating an inflexible demand for feed-stocks which drives up food prices."

"This steady climb in global food prices is hurting millions of poor people, many of whom already spend up to 80% of their income on food. The international community have been far too weak and slow in responding. The G20 and the Committee on Food Security need to tackle price volatility much more aggressively by phasing out biofuels targets, building up food reserves and improving transparency around food stock levels, so that we know what food is available in order to manage stocks accordingly", Oxfam's Food and Policy Advisor Thierry Kesteloot said.

A spike in food prices in 2008 pushed 100-million people into poverty according to Oxfam's study Growing a Better Future.

The 2011 hike has pushed another 44-million close to starvation.

lathamd@bdfm.co.za