When the upswing in commodity prices eventually makes its way throughout the food system in mid-to-late 2011, food prices are sure to spike with levels potentially reaching those of 2008, announced U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) economist Ephraim Leibtag at the agency's annual Outlook Forum. And if conditions escalate rapidly, there is also the potential for food riots and other civil unrest.
The USDA is predicting a 3.5 percent increase in food prices in 2011, which is about twice the overall inflation rate but less than the 2008 increase, according to a recent Reuters report. In 2008, food pricesrose 5.5 percent, which represents the highest increase since 1990. But the possibility of foodpricesdramatically rising in2011like they did in 2008 is a definite possibility.
"Given that it's still earlier in the year, I'm prone to be conservative on the side of the forecast," said Leibtag. "It's a possibility," he added, concerning the likelihood of massive inflation in food costslike was seen in 2008.