×

This is the flashpoint for food price riots

Governments wanting to avoid riots like those that helped spark the Arab Spring should work to keep global food prices from doubling, a new study has found.

The U.K.'s Anglia Ruskin University claims to have identified the point in food price inflation that makes riots and domestic conflict more likely.

Using the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index (FAO FPI), which measures monthly price changes for an international basket of foodstuffs, the study found that breaching index levels of 148 increases the risk of violent food riots by varying degrees -- depending on how politically stable the country 's politics were. Normal FAO FPI levels register near 100.

"It's slightly more than a doubling in the price of traded grains, which has happened in the past when we've seen major production shocks or something else happening in the food system," Dr. Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin University's Global Sustainability Institute and the report's co-author told CNBC by phone.


Fethi Belaid | AFP | Getty Images

Shocks could include export bans or crop losses due to bad weather or droughts.

The research identified 17 countries most in danger of price-linked food riots -- including Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria -- posing a 36.7 percent risk if thresholds are breached.

The study examined food riots that took place between 2004 and 2012, which included those in North Africa and the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and those in India following massive floods in 2007.

Four groups of countries were identified within the World Bank's political instability rankings, with corresponding risk levels if thresholds were breached. Currently, Russia, India and China face a 17.8 percent risk if food prices double.

Read MoreRiots at the European Central Bank

While the study found that there was no likelihood that food riots would occur in Norway, New Zealand, Germany or Canada, it did warn that the UK has at a 5 percent risk of food-price-sparked rioting.

"We have a lot of food banks, so we do have a food problem in the UK. We haven't seen people rioting currently, but we have the conditions.

"It's not a zero percent probability of that happening," Jones said.

But if the current crop cycle is any indication, there's little risk food will be in short supply for the rest of the year.

"I'm comfortable prices going to stay contained through rest of 2015, subject to weather performing," Kona Haque, Head of Research at ED&F Man told CNBC in a phone interview.

Read MoreAmerica's Most Destructive Riots of All Time

"We had a few US-weather related concerns over wheat used for food consumption but that's actually cleared up. We're looking at a decent harvest in US and Europe."

The last major food price spike in 2012 was drought related, Haque explained. But farmers overcompensated, planting enough crops to spawn three years of surplus for grains like wheat and corn.

Along with many other commodities, softs like wheat won't withstand a surging greenback

"Food commodity prices will stay under pressure as long as the dollar keeps rallying," Haque explained.