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Biofuels, Speculators Driving Food Price Surges

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A new report on global hunger pinpoints factors at the heart of spikes in food prices it says are exacerbating the unfolding food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Released ahead of World Food Day on Oct. 16, the report calls for action to control price volatility in the global food market and protect the world's poorest from the scourge of famine.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI), released Tuesday by The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide, points to climate change, growing demand for biofuels, and increasing commodities futures trading in global food markets as the causes of price increases in food, which it says were also at the root of the food crisis of 2007-2008.

Price volatility refers to the relative rate at which the price for a commodity changes over time, according to the GHI. The report points to an enduring period of high and increasingly volatile prices for food, which it says has economic, social and political impacts.

The GHI report places countries on an index of hunger based on three indicators: the proportion of undernourished people, the proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the child mortality rate. According to the report, 26 countries face hunger crises. Burundi, Eritrea, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had a GHI score that increased 63 percent due to ongoing conflict, top the index with the most extreme levels.