World Bank president says food prices will rise, remain volatile

The president of the World Bank, who grew up in Naperville, Ill., was in Kansas City with a message about global food prices: Expect them to edge higher and remain volatile.

Of course, that’s not necessarily bad news in America’s breadbasket.

“Keep your eyes open. There’s opportunity out there,” said Robert Zoellick, who has led the development organization for four years.

Zoellick sat for an interview before meeting Friday with economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He was also scheduled to talk with members of the Economic Club of Kansas City at a private lunch.

Food prices have been pushed up and down in part by developed countries’ appetite for biofuels such as ethanol. But Zoellick said they’re also reacting to a decade-long decline in global grain stocks that allows weather and other events that disrupt supplies to move prices more violently.

Then there is the planet’s growing middle class — think China and India. They’re eating more and better. Meat consumption is rising, and that means more strain on feed grain production globally, Zoellick said. Rising demand will affect food prices as agriculture across the global rebuilds grain stocks.

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