The warnings from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund about a global food crisis may seem, from the laden restaurant tables of Hong Kong, to be alarmist. Without doubt, prices here have risen dramatically over the past year, most noticeably for rice, pork and eggs. But few are going to go hungry; although we grumble about the higher costs, footing the bill is, for most, not a problem. Therein lies the disconnect when living in a city of plenty. While Hong Kong households spend less than one-sixth of income on food, in the developing world, where wages are lower, the figure can be several times more. Vietnamese put 65 per cent of what they earn towards food, Indonesians 50 per cent and Nigerians 73 per cent. To people in these countries, the 57 per cent increase in food prices last month compared with a year earlier is nothing short of a crisis. World Bank president Robert Zoellick cautioned last week that 33 nations were at risk of social unrest because of the price rises. He has now heightened the call for action, urging developed countries to promptly stump up the US$500 million shortfall in promised World Food Programme aid. The head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has also sounded the alarm, warning that if food prices remained high, there would be dire consequences for developing countries, particularly in Africa. There has been foretaste of the consequences, with riots over food shortages and price rises in recent months from India to Egypt to Mexico. Unrest related to price rises led to the fall of Haiti's prime minister at the weekend; a UN police officer was killed on Sunday. Haiti is among the world's poorest nations. It is a far cry from Hong Kong, where our wealth makes us relatively immune from food shortages and price rises. Even on the mainland there is unlikely to be a crisis; the government has ample financial resources to ensure supplies and Premier Wen Jiabao has given an assurance that the agricultural sector can cope with demand. It seems likely that prices will continue rising. The World Bank said in a separate report that food prices were likely to remain comparatively high until 2015. There are several reasons, chief among them growing global demand, including continued growth of the middle class on the mainland and in India and its demand for meat; the push for renewable fuels because of high oil and gas prices; and damage to agricultural land from global warming. Mr Zoellick's demand that wealthy countries honour pledges, to stave off further unrest, is a solid start; aid to ensure that the poor do not go hungry is the quickest way to keep the peace. But aid is no long-term fix, and again a solution lies with the developed world. More sustained efforts have to be made to improve agricultural practices in Asia, Africa and central America. Sharing technological developments will play a big part. So, too, will bringing down trade barriers between the developing and developed world. Nations must also review policies on biofuels. Many provide subsidies to farmers to grow crops such as corn from which ethanol can be made. Corn prices have jumped, as has the cost of livestock feed, which has pushed up beef and pork prices. With less land being planted for food crops like wheat and soya beans, the prices of these staples has also sharply risen. The world's food problems are not going to be resolved overnight. Financial aid will stop hunger, but there is only so much money to go around. Concerted co-operation between poor and rich countries is the only way to prevent the looming crisis getting out of hand.