F.A.O. calls for supporting poor, boosting agriculture

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said the international community should take urgent and specific actions to address hunger and malnutrition in light of soaring food prices, scarce land and water resources, climate change, increased energy needs and population growth.

The remarks are in a policy document prepared for the High-Level Conference on World Food Security, which is scheduled for next week in Rome.

"The current dramatic world food situation reminds us of the fragility of the balance between global food supplies and the needs of the world’s inhabitants and the fact that earlier commitments to accelerate progress towards the eradication of hunger have not been met," said Jacques Diouf, F.A.O. director-general.

Many agricultural commodity markets continue to be tight despite production increases and low stock levels are not likely to be replenished quickly, the F.A.O. said. In fact, many countries have the dual challenge of sharp increase in food and fuel prices that are threatening macroeconomic stability and overall growth. The F.A.O. report lists 22 countries especially at risk due to chronic hunger and being net importers of both food and fuel. These countries include Eritrea, Niger, Comoros, Haiti and Liberia.

"Given the seriousness of the global food supply and demand imbalances, cereal markets may not regain their stability any time soon," Mr. Diouf said. "Prices might come down, but they are not likely to reach their previous low levels for several years to come. We hope that world leaders coming to Rome will agree on the urgent measures that are required to boost agricultural production, especially in the most affected countries, and at the same time protect the poor from being adversely affected by high food prices."

The F.A.O. believes providing emergency assistance to the most poor and hungry and re-launching agriculture and revitalizing rural communities are key elements to reduce hunger and ensure an improved world food situation. Part of this would require direct food distribution, food subsidies and cash transfers as well as nutritional programs.

Other important measures the F.A.O. noted include boosting local food production, which includes the distribution to small-scale farmers of seeds, fertilizers and animal feed through vouchers or smart subsidies. In addition, the international organization notes unilateral trade policies some countries use to ensure domestic food availability may exacerbate price instability on world markets and affect food security in other countries. High food prices also represent an opportunity for increased investments in agriculture by both the public and private sectors to stimulate production and productivity, the F.A.O. noted.

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