Turn food crisis into agricultural renaissance: UN forum

May 24th, 2008 - 1:29 pm ICT by admin  

New York, May 24 (IANS) The UN Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc) has urged the international community to work together to urgently put policies in place to not only cope with the global food crisis but also to “turn a threatening situation into an agricultural renaissance”. In a statement issued Friday after a three-day special session on the food crisis, the UN economic forum said that more and better seeds, fertilisers, irrigation, transport and storage facilities were needed to increase food supply in the world.

Soarding prices and food shortages affect the health and survival of millions, Ecosoc president Leo Merores said at the meeting of the 52-member UN forum.

Prices of basic food commodities have risen steeply in the past two years, with rice prices more than doubling since January this year, he added.

In the short term, Ecosoc resolved to call on donors and national governments to provide farmers with the ability to meet production needs for the next growing season. It also asked researchers to understand food markets and the role of speculation.

In addition, it was decided that all member states should help bring about a new trade regime that would be more conducive to global food security.

According to Ecosoc, medium to long-term measures should include a re-examination of the amount of official development assistance dedicated to agriculture, which had been in dramatic decline.

There should be renewed urgency in concluding the Doha round of the world trade negotiations, which should address farm subsidies and tariffs of developed countries to help agricultural development in poor countries.

“Improved inputs, decreased losses, secure land tenure and better infrastructure, road communication, transport and storage facilities were all factors that could increase food supply and income for the rural poor,” a report on the meeting said.

The Ecosoc also called for a special concerted effort to address the crisis in Africa, with research and development directed towards food crops best suited to local agro-climatic conditions.

“Governments should rethink bio-fuel policies and foster greater regional dialogue and South-South cooperation, in addition to enhanced collaboration with the private sector,” it said.

Finally, the report called for a unified approach by the UN system and the private sector while encouraging the philanthropic community to develop innovative programmes to combat hunger and increase food production in the poorest countries.

Addressing the Ecosoc session, India’s ambassador to the UN Nirupam Sen refuted US President George Bush’s remark that increasing consumption by the middle class in developing countries had led to the current food crisis.

He blamed the crisis on the developed countries’ excessive and unsustainable consumption levels.

Sen added that the initial conjunction of lower food prices and high oil prices led to the sale of grain to energy producers for conversion into energy.

The Ecosoc session this week served as a bridge between a recently concluded meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development and a food summit scheduled to take place in Rome June 3-5.

At the Rome meeting, hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), government leaders and ministers will seek ways to prevent millions more people from suffering hunger.

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