The rise in agricultural commodities prices has led to the lowest support by rich countries to their farmers in nearly three decades, according to new figures released by the Organisation for Econo

Many traders and hedge funds are nursing losses after a whiplash reversal in one of the biggest commodity trading trends of the year – a bet on a widening spread between different types of crude oil.

The new head of the UN

The father of Brazil

Biofuels are doing more harm than good, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation said yesterday, in its strongest call yet to review "current policies supporting, subsidising and mandating biofuel production and use".

The race by food-importing countries to secure farmland overseas to improve their food security risks creating a "neo-colonial' system, the United Nations' top agriculture official has cautioned.

The warning by Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, comes as countries from Saudi Arabia to China plan to lease vast tracts of land in Africa and Asia to grow crops and ship them back to their markets.

Oil prices plunged below $130 a barrel yesterday, extending a sharp three-day decline and fuelling a second day of big gains in stocks that lifted Wall Street out of bear market territory.

The continued fall in oil, which last week reached a record high of $147.27, combined with the rally in bank stocks to brighten what a few days ago looked like an increasingly bleak financial and economic outlook.

The rise in food and oil prices could "severely weaken' the economies of up to 75 developing countries, including Pakistan and Indonesia, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday in its first broad assessment of the crisis. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing-director, warned that some countries were now at "a tipping point' because of the double impact of rising food and oil prices.

The world will face high food prices "in the years to come", the UN food summit said yesterday, but failed to agree how the crisis could be eased. The summit, hosted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, was called to tackle food price rises that have triggered riots in 30 countries, but became embroiled in a bitter dispute over biofuels and export restrictions. Agricultural commodities rose on the news as traders saw no prospect of change in biofuels policies or in the use of trade restrictions by key exporters. Bad weather has also contributed to the recent price rises.

Crude oil prices could surge to $200 a barrel in the next two years, according to theGoldman Sachs analyst who three years ago correctly predicted a price "super-spike" above $100 a barrel. The warning by Arjun Murti came as oil prices hit a fresh record high above $122 a barrel, boosted by supply disruptions in Nigeria, lower output in Russia and continued robust demand in China ahead of the Olympics. Mr Murti said the energy crisis could be coming to a head as a lack of adequate supply growth was becoming apparent.