Although Europe includes some of the world’s most advanced nations and the poverty and food insecurity level is lower than in most other regions, significant differences exist among the various states and poverty based on a line of less than $2 per day stands at 21 per cent, a United Nations food agency said today.
“Special attention needs to be paid to the poorest countries of the region, especially those of southeast Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, to help resolve their problems of food insecurity and rural poverty,” Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf told the agency’s Regional Conference for Europe in Montpellier, France.
Five per cent of Europeans are affected by food insecurity. Factors fuelling poverty in the past 15 years include the difficulties associated with moving from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, declining production in agriculture and the agrifood sector and resulting unemployment. In the Balkans, the situation has been further exacerbated by conflict, he added.
The number of undernourished people in the countries in transition grew from 25 million to 34 million between 1993-1995 and 1999-2001, according to FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003. Nearly all of the increases in undernourishment took place in the Commonwealth of Independent States, where the number of hungry people rose to 28.8 million from 20.6 million.
Agricultural production in the region as a whole fell by about 0.5 percent per year between 1998 and 2003. Agriculture accounted for 12 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product in 2001.
“During the last biennium, six countries of the Balkans and Commonwealth of Independent States received emergency assistance from FAO to deal with crises in their agricultural sectors, for a total of some $15 million,” Mr. Diouf declared.
But despite these problems, he said he was confident that a determined Europe could meet the challenges of poverty and food insecurity.