Global conference in Rome soon to tackle food security

April 9th, 2008 - 7:45 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) A global conference is being organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at its Rome headquarters in June on how to tackle global food security in the backdrop of rising prices and falling stocks. All 191 member countries of the UN agency, apart from inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, will be invited to attend the crucial conference to find answers to prevent food riots, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said here Wednesday.

“Some serious steps are required to come out of the situation,” said Diouf, who is in the Indian capital to attend a global conference on agro industries.

Referring to the alarming food situation across the globe, he said: “World food prices have risen some 45 percent in the last nine months and there are serious shortages of rice, wheat and maize. This is the result of policies over past 10-15 years. Agriculture has been somewhat neglected.”

The FAO chief said the current problem was the result of both supply and demand situation where high growth in countries like India and China has led to higher disposable incomes and more demand for food, while supplies have depleted.

He said the global food stock at 405 million tonnes today was the lowest since 1980 with supplies of only 12 weeks in the case of wheat and rice. He expressed anguish over lack of adequate investment in farm and allied technologies.

“It is essential to increase agricultural investment in water and infrastructure and also to facilitate inputs for small farmers so that they can increase their productivity,” he said.

His comments come in the backdrop of India’s annual rate of inflation rising to a three-year high of seven percent in the week ending March 22 amid low buffer stocks and spiralling prices of essential commodities.

Diouf did not want to be drawn into the merits and demerits of diverting maize and other food crops for the production of fuels like ethanol in some countries like the US but said this was for the governments to decide collectively.

Some global experts feel that the diversions of some cereals like maize to make ethanol - when food stocks are at record lows - have added to the problem of food security. The record price of oil has also made such diversion lucrative.

“Yes, the diversion is increasing the problem,” Diouf said, without commenting further.

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