At FAO Special Meeting, Delegates Recommend Addressing Root Causes Of Food Price Escalation

“Delegates at a special U.N. meeting [in Rome] about high food prices Friday blamed the hikes on speculation, futures markets and national responses to crop failure,” the Associated Press/Moscow Times reports (9/27).

The experts agreed that a food crisis is not imminent, but also said countries should not be complacent, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) press release. By the conclusion of Friday’s meeting, “the experts recognized that unexpected price hikes ‘are a major threat to food security’ and recommended further work to address their root causes,” which includes “exploring ‘alternative approaches to mitigating food price volatility’ and ‘new mechanisms to enhance transparency and manage the risks associated with new sources of market volatility'”  (9/24).

“It has been a very successful meeting which proves the centrality of food safety issues on the global agenda and the fact that countries are willing to cooperate to avoid future food crises,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary for the Inter-Governmental Groups (IGGs) on Grains and Rice, Bernama reports (9/25). “This issue of volatility in prices, it is not something that is now going to go away,” Abbassian continued, VOA News reports. “This year [it] may be Russia. Next year [it] may be another country, or another factor,” he said (9/24).

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in an interview with the Financial Times last week in New York that current market prices do not reflect actual scarcities and will stabilize. “He said the spike in wheat prices in August, which followed a Russian export ban prompted by the impact of drought on its farmers, was already in decline. … ‘We’re confident there is sufficient storage and sufficient capacity in terms of what we think [world] yields would be to meet global food needs in the next year or two,’ said Mr. Vilsack,” the newspaper reports (Birchall, 9/26).

Meeting delegates from more than 75 FAO member states “proposed exploring new measures to check food price volatility and manage associated risks,” the press release states. Some of the recommendations will be examined at an upcoming Committee on World Food Security meeting (9/24).

PRI’s The World also reported on the special meeting (Evans, 9/24).

ADB, FAO, IFAD Sign 3-Year Food Security Agreement For Asia-Pacific Region

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the FAO and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) have signed the three-year Asia Pacific Regional Food Security Partnership Framework in an effort to address hunger and strengthen food security in Asia and the Pacific region, the Financial Express reports (9/27).

“The new ADB, FAO, and IFAD partnership will promote innovative financing mechanisms to attract private sector investment in agriculture as well as develop inclusive business models that bring benefits for investors and local small farmers,” according to an FAO press release. It “establishes four pillars for collective and collaborative efforts: the harmonization of cross-border and regional investments; promotion of stronger collaboration in the prioritized agricultural research; support to enhance intra- and inter-regional food trade; and facilitation of sharing of lessons and good practices in policy and institutional response to improve household food security” (9/23).

“Asia needs to wake up to the enormous challenge of feeding its population of five billion people by 2050. Gross annual investments of $120 billion are required in the region for primary agriculture and downstream services – in a responsible manner and focused on rural areas through pro-poor programmes and livelihoods activities for poor and small farmers,” said Jacques Diouf, the FAO’s director-general, the Financial Express notes. He said the region should expand on the successes that several countries have already had in reducing hunger.

“The Asia and Pacific region is still home to some 578 million hungry people, some two-thirds of the world’s hungry, so it is high time to move out of our comfort zones and forge new partnerships, collaborative arrangements, and networks with the single objective of achieving food for all,” said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda (9/27).

Meanwhile, Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO’s assistant regional chief, said on Monday that agriculture investments in the Asia-Pacific region needs to rise by about $40 billion to prevent hunger, SAPA-Agence France-Presse/Times LIVE reports.

Konuma spoke at the 30th session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, which brings together officials and experts from 44 countries. “The present situation of high food prices and increased numbers of hungry people are the result of the low priority given to agriculture in the last three decades,” Konuma said at the five-day gathering in South Korea’s southeastern city of Gyeongju.

“To meet the food requirements in 2050, 120 billion dollars needs to be invested in the agriculture sector annually in Asia and the Pacific Region,” Konuma said. “The present level of investment, both from the public and private sector, is estimated at 80 billion dollars.” He also noted that official development aid devoted to agriculture went down from 20 percent in 1979 to 5 percent in 2007 (9/27).

The Republic of Korea’s Agricultural Minister Yoo Jeongbok also spoke at the opening of the conference on Monday and called for “each country to increase investments in agriculture and enhance farm productivity,” according to an FAO press release. He also said the region should work together to “overcome various challenges such as food insecurity, climate change and natural disasters” (9/27).

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