Further sharp increases in global food prices ‘likely’ – UN report
Further sharp price hikes and continued volatility in markets for food supplies appear to be likely for the next few seasons, according to a report released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the run-up to a summit on the global food crisis which is being held in Rome early next month.
FAO lists 22 countries that it says are particularly vulnerable to food price increases because of high levels of chronic hunger and because they are net importers of both food and fuel. The report cites Eritrea, Niger, Comoros, Haiti and Liberia as being especially at risk.
“We hope that world leaders coming to Rome will agree on the urgent measures that are required to boost agricultural production, especially in the most affected countries, and at the same time protect the poor from being adversely affected by high food prices,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.
The report says that increases in domestic food prices, even by moderate rates of 10 to 20 per cent, can have immediate negative impacts on poor households that spend a large part of their income on food staples.
Protecting the most vulnerable in rural and urban areas will require targeted direct food distribution, food subsidies and cash transfers, as well as nutritional programmes including school feeding, FAO says.
The agency also calls for the distribution of seeds, fertilizers, animal feed to small-scale farmers through vouchers or smart subsidies.
FAO has appealed for $ 1.7 billion to provide seeds, fertilizers and other inputs to boost production in low-income and food deficit countries.
The report argues that high food prices represent an excellent opportunity for increased investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, noting that support should focus on the needs of poor farmers, many of whom farm in increasingly marginal areas.
Participants at the 3-5 June summit will discuss how agriculture can be harnessed to produce enough food to meet the demands of the world’s growing population. Many Heads of State and Government , as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of many UN organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions, will attend the event.
In a related develoment, the new global task force on the food crisis – chaired by Mr. Ban and bringing together the heads of key UN agencies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other international experts – held its second meeting today. It reviewed progress made in preparing its action plan, which the Secretary-General will present at the Rome meeting.
Meanwhile, it was announced today that Spanish football captain and FAO Goodwill Ambassador Raúl González has been awarded the Spanish prize for solidarity in sports.
Mr. González has donated the $47,000 prize money to the FAO’s Telefood Fund which provides micro-finance to poor farmers around the world.