Investments in agriculture key to curbing world hunger, head of UN agency says

Investments in agriculture key to curbing world hunger, head of UN agency says

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for increased efforts towards ensuring all people regular access to safe and nutritious food.

"Despite the abundance of food suggested by world-wide figures and trends, hundreds of millions of people continue to go to bed hungry every night," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told the World Agriculture Forum over the weekend in St. Louis, United States.

Although the proportion of the world population in a chronic state of undernourishment had declined from 37 to 18 per cent in the last 30 years, the actual number of undernourished people had declined only from 960 million to 790 million in developing countries, according to FAO.

Underlining the critical need for more investments in agriculture, the FAO Director-General deplored the fact that agricultural and trade policies in a number of industrialized countries had not always provided a conducive environment for the development of agriculture in developing countries.

"In 1999 alone, the total subsidies to agriculture by OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries was estimated at $361.5 billion, or 1.4 per cent of their total GDP," Dr. Diouf said. "This support is in accord with the WTO [World Trade Organization] agreements, but there is little doubt that it gives the industrialized countries a competitive edge which poorer countries cannot match. It is also interesting to compare this support with the total flow of official development assistance to agriculture, which reached $ 7.4 billion in 1998."

The FAO Director-General underlined that alleviating hunger was not only a moral imperative, but also beneficial for the interests of all societies. "Hunger is often not just a result but also a cause or a fuelling component of conflict and civil strife, and has direct influence on uncontrolled immigration and urbanization."