17 November 2009

Nigeria: FAO Organizes Summit On Food Security

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf on hunger strike

Amid global concern over food insecurity situation, which continues to impose serious threat for humanity, the world leaders have designed a summit to stem the tide of the insecurity. With food prices remaining stubbornly high in developing countries, the number of people suffering from hunger has been growing relentlessly in recent years.

The global economic crisis is aggravating the situation by affecting jobs and deepening poverty. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that the number of hungry people could increase by more than 100 million in 2009 and will surpass the one billion mark.

Director-General, FAO, Jacques Diouf has proposed a World Summit on Food Security to agree key actions to tackle the crisis. "The silent hunger crisis affecting one sixth of all of humanity poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world", he stated.

Poor countries need the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries, a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome hunger and poverty and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth.

The gravity of the current food crisis is the result of 20 years of under-investment in agriculture and neglect of the sector. Directly or indirectly, agriculture provides the livelihood for 70 percent of the world's poor.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "Food security exists, when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life". This, it adds, involves the following conditions adequate food supply, availability, stability of supply without fluctuations or shortages from season to season or from year to year; accessibility to food or affordability and quality and safety of food.

According to the FAO, around 923 million people worldwide were chronically hungry due to extreme poverty in 2007 while some two billion more intermittently lack food security as a result of varying degrees of poverty.

Recent food price increases have lead to violent protests in Latin America, Africa and Asia, demonstrating the immediate impact the rise in basic commodity prices has had on the world's poorest populations. In spring 2008, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia agreed in principle to form a rice price-fixing body, the Organization of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC), amid soaring costs of basic grain. Such a food cartel, to be set up by 2012, would be similar to the oil cartel OPEC.

Developing countries which are net importers of food have been hit hardest by the hike in food prices , while net food exporting countries are making large profits. However, in the long term, rising food prices could help rural communities in some developing countries to escape poverty, increasing farmers' income.

Higher agricultural prices could increase public and private investments to programmes that improve productivity and infrastructure and spread production to marginal land. This in turn might stop increasing urbanization, as higher wages and increased labour demand would incite people to stay in rural areas.

Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was initially created to support production and overcome food shortages induced by the Second World War. But it lead to overproduction and exported food surpluses to world markets, which in turn meant that developing countries faced unfair competition.

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