Prices will surge in the face of a looming global food crisis, according to a stark new warning from the United Nations.

The UN’s food and agriculture organisation said political instability would result from a combination of factors that have pushed sugar and rice to record prices.

"The situation has deteriorated since September," said the UN’s Abdolreza Abbassian. "We may not get to the prices of 2008 but this time they could stay high much longer."

The president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, said recent hikes in the price of grain had added to global uncertainty.

"World food price volatility remains significant and in some countries, the volatility is adding to already higher local food prices,” he said.

The warning comes after Russia last week extended its ban on wheat exports for a further six months.

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