The International Monetary Fund has said that rising food prices threaten to undermine gains made in cutting poverty and further strain a global economy already hit by a financial crisis.
The warning comes after riots related to increasing food prices rocked Haiti and Egypt.
The increases are caused, in part, by drought in Australia and in central Europe, and more demand for food in increasingly Asian countries, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, said on Thursday.
Strauss-Kahn's comments came on the eve of a meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the Group of Seven industrial countries in Washington DC.
The increased use of grains to produce biofuels, first heralded as a way to cut greenhouse gases, combined with increased demand for food in emerging market economies, is contributing to grain shortages and food riots.
Food prices, for instance, increased by 48 per cent since the end of 2006 until now, which is a huge increase, and it may undermine all the gains we have obtained in reducing poverty", Strauss-Kahn said.
Riots over food price rises began in southern Haiti earlier this week and quickly spread to the capital Port-au-Prince, where tens of thousands took to the streets.
Four were killed in the disturbance, while UN peacekeepers drove away rioters used rubber bullets and tear gas to drive away rioters from the presidential palace.
Food prices, which have risen 40 per cent on average globally since mid-2007, are most damaging to poor nations such as Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.
Biofuel: It's the future (for corporate America)
Incidentally, if you want to do something to help, you could do worse than visit FreeRice - a website that will donate 20 grains of rice for every correct answer. It may not seem much, but it is a start.