FAO Head Highlights Food Security Concerns, Need For More Agriculture Investment

Rising oil prices and the recent drawdown in global cereal stocks could lead to a supply crisis and raise the risk of food riots in developing countries similar to those that occurred between 2007 and 2008, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General Jacques Diouf said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.   

“Diouf said until recent months, global stocks of cereals were at much healthier levels than the dwindling supplies that set off a crisis in 2007 and 2008,” the news service writes. “The high prices raise concern and we’ve been quickly drawing down stocks,” he said. “For years we have warned that what is needed is more productivity and investment in agriculture,” Diouf added (Schneyer, 3/14).

Diouf outlined this message in prepared remarks at the opening of the third edition of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award in Abu Dhabi, according to the U.N. News Centre. “There is a need to increase the supply of quality plant material for local and regional needs and to go beyond the present framework of date production by government plantations and a limited number of private farmers,” he said (3/15).

“The world population will increase from 6.9 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050. Economic progress, notably in the emerging countries, puts more resources in the hands of the poor categories of the population who spend 50 percent of their income on food. World food demand will surge as a result. This will require food production to increase by 70 percent in the world and by 100 percent in the developing countries,” Diouf said, Gulf News reports (Salama, 3/16).

He noted that developing countries “only allocate 5 percent of their national budgets to the [agriculture] sector, instead of 10 percent, despite its contribution to gross domestic product, exports and the balance of payments,” according to an FAO press release. “If we add the impact of droughts, floods, hurricanes and other events exacerbated by climate change and the speculation on agricultural commodity futures markets, it becomes clear that the current situation is the chronicle of a disaster foretold,” he said (3/15).

Food Companies To Launch Initiative To Promote African Food Security

The Wall Street Journal examines a new effort by some of the world’s biggest food companies “aimed at helping [Africa] feed itself.”

“General Mills Inc., Cargill Inc. and Dutch food-science company Royal DSM NV are expected Wednesday to announce a nonprofit called Partners in Food Solutions to help global food makers share their technological and other expertise with food processing companies in African nations and, eventually, other developing countries,” the newspaper reports. The nonprofit has “already has begun working with 15 food processors on projects in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi expected to help about 60,000 farmers, General Mills executives said.” It aims to have 10 large companies working with one million farmers in 14 African countries over the next five years.

The initiative will be staffed with people from the companies who will provide manufacturing, product development and other types of advice to small and medium African food processors. “We’ve donated money and commodities” in the past, F. Kerr Dow, Cargill vice president of global food technology said, adding, “This is knowledge transfer, and that makes you a lot more personally connected” (Brat, 3/16).  

Celebrities Help Spread Food Security Messages

The Globe and Mail reports on efforts to use celebrities to raise public awareness of global food security and agriculture issues. “Hollywood stars, pop icons and television personalities entering the complicated realm of global food politics are not merely being welcomed with open arms by some of the world’s most respected – and increasingly overstretched – food aid organizations, they’re being recruited to help build awareness at a critical juncture,” the Globe and Mail writes.

The article focuses on the World Food Program’s (WFP) use of celebrities, noting that the actress “Drew Barrymore was one of the first to start promoting WFP’s work … The pop singer Christina Aguilera travelled to Haiti earlier this year for the WFP. National ambassadors have been appointed in Switzerland, South Korea and the Philippines” (Leeder, 3/15).

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