Rome: The incoming head of the UN food agency on Tuesday predicted high and volatile food prices for years to come and said the UN should play a bigger role in trying to help countries deal with the impact.

Jose Graziano da Silva, a former food security minister of Brazil, was elected on Monday as Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN agency tasked with eliminating world hunger at a time of near-record high food prices.

At his first press conference on Tuesday, Graziano said high commodity prices weren't a temporary phenomenon but would remain high for several years since they are related to
overall instability in world financial markets. Until those markets stabilize, he said, commodities will be hard hit.

"This is my view and I foresee we will still have problems, especially on those poor countries that need to import most of their food," he said.

He praised as a good first step the recent agreement by G-20 agriculture ministers to calm markets by establishing a transparent system to track global food supplies and set up emergency food reserves.

But he said he thought FAO should do more to give policy assistance to countries to help them react when drought or other natural disasters hit.