Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Global hunger set to worsen says FAO

Record prices for major agricultural commodities and a reduction in the volume of food aid means there is a serious risk that global hunger will worsen next year, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Monday.

The warning came as wheat prices on Monday jumped to an all-time high, soyabean prices hit a fresh 34-year high and corn rose to an 11-year high on strong demand and tight supplies reflected in extremely low global inventories.

Jacques Diouf, FAO director general, saw “a serious risk of poor people getting less food next year because of the impact of high food prices and a reduction of volume of food aid”.

Food aid has been reduced because agricultural commodities prices are going up while the big aid agencies’ budgets – including that of the UN’s World Food Programme, which feeds almost 90m of the world’s poorest people – remain stagnant.

“Urgent and new steps are needed to prevent the negative impacts of rising food prices from further escalating and to quickly boost crop production in the most affected countries,” Mr Diouf said at a press conference in Rome.

The FAO on Monday asked for financial support for a voucher system to help farmers in poor countries buy seeds and fertilisers, both of which are rising in price, in an effort to boost local production. Although the voucher system is a small-scale project with an initial FAO budget of $17m, Mr Diouf said it had the potential to increase crop production in poor countries by up to 20 per cent.

Rising prices for crude oil and natural gas prices, a major feedstock for fertiliser, and robust demand have pushed manure prices to levels not seen in the past two decades. Seed prices have risen on higher demand from emerging countries.

“Assisting poor vulnerable households in rural areas in the short term and enabling them to produce more food would be an efficient tool to protect them against hunger and undernourishment,” Mr Diouf added.


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