SANTIAGO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Weaker macroeconomic performance and rising food costs have put the brakes on the rate of poverty decrease in Latin America, the United Nations' economic body for the region said on Thursday.
An annual survey by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean shows 27.9 percent of Latin Americans live in poverty, while 11.5 percent are in extremepoverty.
The number of poor - about 164 million - has remained stable compared to 2012, falling slightly in percentage terms. The numbers in extreme poverty rose slightly to 68 million.
The region's economies largely enjoyed ebullient growth and rising job income in the 2000s, lifting millions out of poverty, but global headwinds have slowed expansion in the past couple of years.
The commission cut its estimates for 2013 regional growth to 3 percent in July, and warned that Latin America's commodities-led export economies needed to diversify to reduce reliance on demand from China and Europe.
As well as the impact on poverty rates from macroeconomic performance, food costs rising above inflation had particularly hit the poor, Chile-based ECLAC said.
A significant number of people were still affected by issues such as lack of access to drinking water or appropriate sanitation, it said, while, despite some progress, high inequality remained a feature of the region compared to other parts of the world.
"The only acceptable number of people living in poverty is zero, which is why we call on countries to carry out structural economic changes to achieve sustained growth with greater equality," said commission Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena.
Among 11 countries measured in both 2011 and 2012, socialist Venezuela had the biggest success in poverty reduction, with the rate falling 5.6 percentage points to 23.9 percent.
Argentina's rate of poverty of 4.3 percent was by far the lowest of the group.
Mexico, which has battled a sharp slowdown and seen a drop in government spending, was the worse performer, with poverty rising to 37.1 percent from 36.3 percent the previous year.