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Despite ample food for surging world population, UN warns many will still go hungry

Despite ample food for surging world population, UN warns many will still go hungry

Although global food production will continue to outpace world population growth in the coming decades, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries could potentially remain hungry by 2030, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

According to a study launched by FAO, entitled "World agriculture: towards 2015/2030," the current number of hungry people is projected to decrease to 440 million in 2030 from 777 million today. That reduction still falls short of the 1996 World Food Summit goal of halving the number of hungry people from 1990-92 levels - some 815 million - by 2015.

The report, a summary of a technical study scheduled to be released at a later stage, also projects that a slower population growth rate will cause a lower demand for food. But food security and environmental problems will still need urgent attention.

Developing countries will increasingly depend on cereal, meal and milk imports, as their production will not keep pace with demand, the report says. By 2030, they could be producing only 86 per cent of their own cereal needs as traditional grain exporters such as the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Argentina are expected to produce the surpluses needed to fill the gap.

"If real food prices do not rise, and exports of industry products and services grow as previously, then most countries will be able to afford to import cereals to meet their needs," the report says. "However, the poorest countries tend to be the least able to pay for imports."

The study recommended that farmers in developing countries should have better access to international markets, biotechnology and sound environmental practices. Their governments should also help encourage agriculture industries and lobby to eliminate export subsidies and reduce tariffs.

"The majority of the poor live in rural areas," the report says. "Promoting agricultural growth in rural areas and giving rural people better access to land, water, credit, health and education, is essential to alleviate poverty and hunger."