The United Nations warned Thursday that the global economic crisis could create up to 100 million "new hungry" as it wipes out jobs in poorer countries.
"The evidence that we have, still anecdotal, is that the problem is starting up," said David Nabarro, a UN Assistant Secretary General and coordinator of a task force on global food security.
"The figure and estimate that has been put on the number of new hungry that are likely to result from the crisis by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) is between 50 and 100 million," he told journalists.
Speaking ahead of an "Agriculture Summit" organised by the Group of Eight industralised nations this weekend in Italy, Nabarro said the crisis would swell the ranks of the estimated one billion who are at risk of malnutrition.
The threat brought about by unemployment would be grafted on to the food crisis caused by rising prices last year, which triggered riots in some countries.
The International Labour Organisation estimated in January that two years of global financial and economic meltdown could add 50 million more people to the ranks of the world's unemployed by the end of 2009, threatening social unrest.
Nabarro said: "We're anticipating that, with the reduction of their purchasing power as a result of this unemployment, they are going to be facing extreme problems with ensuring that they could feed themselves and their families."
"As well as the many other difficulties that people of the world are facing... they're also going to be heading into another period of hunger," he added.
The task force is urging the three-day meeting of G8 agriculture ministers in Treviso from Saturday to ensure that food and farm reform are included in attempts to revive the global economy, especially through support for smallholders in developing nations, and trade.
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, South Africa and the European Commission have also been invited to the G8 meeting.