Saturday, February 05, 2011

FAO sees 2008 food crisis repeat

MANILA, Philippines The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations warned of a repeat of the 2008 global food crisis as crop harvests fall in the United States, Europe, Australia and Argentina, and agricultural-commodity prices spike in global markets.

FAO Director General Jacques Diouf noted that the volatility in the price of agricultural products is due partly to the failure of rich and poor countries to address the structural imbalances in the international agricultural system.

“We continue to react to circumstances and, thus, engage in crisis management,” said Diouf in a statement.

He warned that if current trends persisted, one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by world leaders would not be met by 2015.

“Reducing by half the number of hungry people on the planet by 2015 would only be achieved in 2150 if current trends persist,” said Diouf.

“We must, therefore, forcefully remind everyone that conditions needed for an adequate supply of food for a population that is constantly growing and that, in the next 40 years, will require a 70% increase in agricultural production worldwide and a 100% increase in the developing countries,” he stressed.

FAO said the solution to the problem of hunger and food insecurity in the world requires an “effective coordination” of decisions on investment, international agricultural trade and financial markets.

“In an uncertain climatic context marked by floods and droughts, we need to be in a position to finance small water-control works, local storage facilities and rural roads, as well as fishing ports and slaughterhouses,” said Diouf.

FAO said there is a need to conclude the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to put an end to “market distortions and restrictive trade practices.”

“Finally, there is a pressing need for new measures of transparency and regulation to deal with speculation on agricultural commodity futures markets,” said Diouf.

FAO said implementation of such policies at the global level requires the respect of the commitments made by the developed countries, notably at the Group of 8 Summits of Gleneagles and L’Aquila, as well as at the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

Developing countries such as the Philippines, said FAO, must increase their national budget allocations to agriculture and to ensure that private foreign direct investments will be made in conditions that will ensure “an equitable sharing of benefits among the different stakeholders.”

“Crisis management is essential and a good thing, but prevention is better. Without long-term structural decisions and the necessary political will and financial resources for their implementation, food insecurity will persist with a succession of crises affecting most seriously the poorest populations,” said Diouf.

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