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Europe

Cheap Food Unlikely Any Time Soon, EU Study Suggests

World food prices are set to fall back from the heights they reached earlier this year, but are unlikely to drop back to the levels recorded before the recent price surge any time soon, a European Union study found.

Several pairs of hands grasping for a piece of bread

Soaring food and fuel prices have caused hunger and unrest all over the world

"It is becoming increasingly clear that structural factors like the growth in global food demand can be reasonably expected to maintain prices at sustained levels over the medium-term, though substantially below the most recent price hikes," the report from the European Commission's agriculture department said on Friday, Aug. 1.

"Reasons for current price pressures are unambiguous ... a combination of steadily increasing demand and lagging supply or production shortfall, exacerbated by short-term economic and policy factors," the report said.

Since the beginning of the year, alarm bells have sounded around the world at the surge in prices for basic foods.

Staggering numbers

A farmer fills up his corn storage

Food prices are likely to remain relatively high, says the EU

According to figures from the commission, the EU's executive, in February wheat in the United States was 113 percent more costly than in February 2007.

European wheat was 93 percent dearer, Thai rice 52 percent more expensive and dairy products 30 percent more costly.

The figures sparked crisis talks in Europe, with EU leaders debating the issue at a summit in Brussels in June.

But Friday's study stresses that there is no single reason for the price rises, with long-term factors such as growing world food consumption, short-term ones such as weather and crop conditions, and external ones such as fuel prices and financial uncertainty all playing a part.

The responses the report suggests are equally varied. They include boosting food aid to the poor, opening unused land for farming and increasing research into crop protection and yield improvements.

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