Caritas warning over international food crisis

By agency reporter
April 15, 2008

A Catholic aid agency has warned that the spiralling cost of food will exacerbate global malnutrition already affecting over 820 million people in developing countries.

“Currently we have over 40 times the population of Australia who are malnourished”, said Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot.“The number of malnourished people today would fill the MCG for the next 8200 weekends or until the finals in the year 2165 – that in itself is difficult to comprehend, but if we don’t act as a global community to address the growing problems of food security now, the problem will be much worse.”

“The first step for the global community in challenging the pending food crisis is to ensure people get enough food to eat tomorrow. This may require price controls on essentials in the short term. In the long term, such price controls are not sustainable and we must put the people on the ground back in charge of their own food security futures.”

According to Mr de Groot, a key challenge in the looming food crisis is to get the policy settings right in order to address food security in the medium to long term.

“Climate change is a good example. Everyone has jumped on the bio fuels wagon and whilst bio fuels such as ethanol are part of the answer to the climate crisis, it is completely immoral to be diverting food stocks to fuel whilst people are starving. We must get the balance right.”

“Already we are hearing that people from New Ireland in PNG are suffering food shortages. Our own region is joining a growing crisis that extends from the Philippines, to Haiti, across to Malawi and back to East Timor, who are all staggering into a food crisis”, said Mr de Groot.

“Of course the poorest will be worst affected with rising food prices as their inability to pay higher prices further limits their purchasing power. Caritas will continue to be a voice for the most marginalized in inhibiting the impacts of the emerging food crisis.

“A further challenge into the future is the issue of sustainability. We know that food aid is an expensive way to deliver aid. Communities on the ground must have control of their food production needs and this sets a further challenge for food policy in the era of globalisation”.

Mr de Groot continued, “the World Food Program needs to refocus themselves as not just a collection and distribution point for food aid but actively pursue policy settings which ensure local communities are in charge of their own food security”.

“Last year we saw for the first time more people living in urban rather than rural settings. Hence the burden on food producers is growing. This trend in rural urban drift means the minority are now producing food for the majority, policy makers must ensure that farmers are supported in this area.

Caritas Australia and the international network of Caritas agencies working in countries throughout the developing world, has always focused on food security and sustainable agriculture”, concluded Mr de Groot.

Keywords:food crisis | caritas
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