- Title: ITALY/FILE: UN warns conditions in place for new food crisis ahead of food summit
- Date: 13th November 2009
- Summary: ROME, ITALY (NOVEMBER 9, 2009) (REUTERS) VARIOUS: EXTERIORS OF FAO HEADQUARTERS WHERE SUMMIT WILL TAKE PLACE (3 SHOTS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) FAO DIRECTOR-GENERAL JACQUES DIOUF SAYING: "We have been saying and repeating that the fundamentals that led to the crisis in 2008 are almost all there."
- Embargoed: 28th November 2009 12:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVAAA7Q57N4MWGIYTXIS73ZJOD7O
- Story Text: Poor nations could still slip back into a major food crisis despite bumper harvests in many countries, the United Nations is warning ahead of a food summit in Rome.
Markets may be packed in developing countries, with food seemingly in abundance, but the price of food is still too high for many. As an example, around half the population in Pakistan is still living without adequate nourishment.
Ahead of the global summit on food security from November 16-18, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf has said more farm aid is needed to curb the rising number of hungry people in the world, which topped 1 billion for the first time this year.
"We have been saying and repeating that the fundamentals that led to the crisis in 2008 are almost all there," Diouf said citing climate change shocks like droughts in Africa, plus strong population growth in developing countries and use of bio-fuels.
Whilst in developed nations food prices have dropped back down from the peak they reached last year, in developing countries high prices have pretty much stayed where they were and it is becoming increasingly difficult for small-scale farmers to live off the land.
"It is affecting us, inflation is going up, so for example the price of lentils is very high," said smallhold farmer Samina Kausar in Multan province, Pakistan. "We are poor people, we can't afford it. Lentils have become as expensive as meat now," she added.
The Nov 16-18 summit in Rome will discuss ways to curb rising global hunger not only by boosting funding but by improving co-ordination between government, multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations.
The medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it was not a good sign that many world leaders would not attend the Rome summit.
"For us the fact that world leaders are not coming (to the food summit), it's a bit of a tragedy," said Daniel Berman, the head of MSF's Access to Essential Medicines campaign, meeting journalists in Rome on Wednesday (November 11).
"The issue of high food price was a hot issue during the crisis in 2008. But we think that some things will happen because there is G8 commitment and G20 commitment to create this (20 billion U.S. dollars ) trust fund (for agricultural development). That could become real," Berman added.
FAO is warning that rich nations need to more than triple the share of aid earmarked for agriculture from the present five per cent to 17 per cent to provide farmers in poor nations with irrigation, fertilisers, disease-resistant seeds, storage for their crops and roads to take them to market. FAO said that the African continent was the most at risk of a further food crisis.
In Kenya people have been crippled by post-election violence, drought and the relentless repercussions of the HIV virus, coupled with consistently high fuel and food prices.
An old water irrigation system in the Ahero village of western Kenya has been brought back to life thanks to aid donations but the local community faces having to cut the price of production to compete on the market with their rice crop.
"If we had more support and avoided expenses like paying for electricity used by the pump and we used the gravity of water instead then we would save more and plant other crops like maize," said rice farmer Nelly Odago.
Non-governmental organisations are not expecting great things from the Rome summit citing a weak showing from some of the major global powers. U.S. President Barack Obama, starts a 10-day Asian tour on Thursday, and is not expected at the Rome summit, nor is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Other G8 leaders, such as France's Nicolas Sarkozy, have also signalled they will not be attending.
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