Close-up of a wheat field
Close-up of a wheat field - 
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Global food prices hit their highest levels ever last month. That's according to the United Nation's new Food Price Index which tracks the prices on meat and wheat and sugar around the world. The last time food prices were at record highs, we saw food riots.

The BBC's Rebecca Singer reports.

REBECCA SINGER: Two years ago, high food prices around the world caused tortilla riots in Mexico, rice protests in Haiti, and bread unrest in Egypt. But the UN report says food prices are actually higher today than they were then. Abdol Reza Abbassian is an economist at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. He says the situation isn't as bad as 2008 because many poorer countries have had relatively good harvests.

ABDOL REZA ABBASSIAN: Take Africa for example, East, West Central Africa had record or above average crops themselves.

Sugar and cooking oil have seen the biggest rise, but the real problem is wheat and corn. Wildfires in Russia led to a wheat export ban and the floods in Australia have made the problem worse. While corn stocks are under increasing pressure because of greater support for bio-fuels in the U.S. Abbassian believes that if conditions don't improve then prices could go even higher and tensions will start to flare up again.

In London, I'm the BBC's Rebecca Singer for Marketplace.

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