With the 2008 food-price riots in developing nations still fresh in mind, non-governmental agency analysts are wary of where this year’s diminishing U.S. corn yields might lead.

With much of U.S. farm country under a punishing drought — along with reports that world food prices have gone up some 6 percent in the last few weeks — corn prices have spiked.

Following several consecutive USDA reports showing corn stocks and yields dipping, the U.S. ethanol production quota is under fire and waivers have been requested from the EPA. The ethanol industry’s advocates have pushed back hard against the idea that such a waiver would ameliorate the tight supply of corn.

While U.S. row crops bake in the field, the potential repercussions are being considered. Also in the mix are concerns that countries, citing the need to protect homegrown food stores, could refuse to export commodities like India and Russia did in 2010. This would only exacerbate the problem of rising food prices.

Farm Press spoke with food price expert Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research for Oxfam America, shortly before the release of the latest Food Price Index report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Kripke spoke about the food-deficient hot spots being watched, why the world’s poor are especially vulnerable to rising food prices, and why the situation is on a “knife’s edge.”

See the FAO report here.

Among Kripke’s comments:

On the FAO Food Price Index…

“There are several food price indexes and each take slightly different approaches — how they weigh oils versus cereals and other things — and get slightly different results. But they’re generally pretty consistent in their findings.

“The FAO’s is generally the most widely-used internationally looking at food prices globally. It looks at key commodities in international markets and where prices are.