Invest in global food security, world leaders urged

By staff writers
16 Oct 2010

UN World Food Day, marked globally this Saturday 16 October, should be used to remind world leaders that heavy investment in the planet’s food security is urgently needed, World Vision Australia has said.

“One billion people suffer from hunger today and there are now danger signs that food prices are again starting to rise, threatening to push millions more people to the brink of starvation,” the agency’s head of advocacy, Martin Thomas, declared.

“Despite the well known impacts and consequences of the 2008 world food crisis, there is still a chronic lack of worldwide funding set aside to ensure the world has a sustainable food supply,” he added.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations says the fact that nearly a billion people remain hungry, even after the recent food and financial crises have largely passed, indicates a deeper structural problem.

“World Vision is calling on the Australian Government to use the G20 meeting in November where development assistance will be discussed, to address the structural causes of food insecurity, including restrictions on food trade and inadequate levels of public investment in agricultural research and development,” Mr Thomas said.

He continued: “We also urge the government to increase the amount of money allocated in the aid budget for agriculture and rural development to 12-14 per cent of the total budget, and to prioritise its food security assistance to the needs of the most vulnerable, in particular children under two, pregnant/lactating women and the extremely poor.”

In mid-2008 the world food supply came under pressures from a variety of sources, including poor harvests in the United States and Europe and prolonged drought in Australia, high oil prices, increasing demand for food and subsidised ethanol programmes.

The World Bank estimates that the 2008 food crisis pushed 100 million people worldwide below the poverty line.

“While the FAO does not expect a repeat of the 2008 food crisis this year, the factors that caused this crisis are still in play and in recent months we have seen an increase in extreme climate-related weather events that have impacted on food supplies. The price of staple foods in many developing countries is also still very high,” said the World Vision Australia (http://www.worldvision.com.au/) spokesperson.

“In the World Bank’s May 2010 Food Price Watch, it noted that civil and military conflicts, poor rainfall and earthquakes have impacted on food prices and availability.

“Thousands of acres of crops were also destroyed in the forest fires in Russia and the floods in Pakistan. These countries now have less to export and the shortage means prices have risen sharply.

“Between August and July this year wheat prices rose between 25 and 50 per cent, highlighting how quickly the security of the world’s food supply can be changed,” Thomas said.

More on World Food Day and what you can do: http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en/

[Ekk/3]

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