20101223 a shopper purchases onions  35
A shopper purchases onions at a local vegetable market in Kolkata. The Indian government, facing mounting public anger over soaring onion costs, scrapped tax on imports of the vegetable to try to rein in prices of the staple food. - 


BOB MOON: Global food prices have gone up for the eightn month in a row, according to a United Nations food index. The report proves that record high basic food prices may be just as responsible for the unrest in the middle East as politics are.

From London here's the BBC's Jon Bithrey.

JON BITHREY: The United Nations checks the prices of staple foods every month. During February, this so-called "food basket" rose by 2.2 percent -- driven by rising dairy, grain and meat costs. Rising costs have helped fuel protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. It all puts more pressure on governments to act on bringing down prices.

Alex Evans is a food expert from the London think tank Chatham House

ALEX EVANS: What you have is growing competition for land, growing water scarcity and a sense that the crop yield growth of the last few decades is starting to run out of steam.

The UN's also warned that rising oil prices could made this bad situation even worse. But it's not all bad news -- rice, a staple food for half of the world -- hasn't gone up in price so much, something the UN says it's very thankful for.

In London, I'm the BBC's Jon Bithrey, for Marketplace.