News Outlets Report On Food Price Concerns As Special FAO Meeting Begins

Ahead of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) special meeting on global food prices Friday, U.N. officials said they expect Russian grain company executives to attend, the Associated Press/Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

“Among participants expected at Friday’s meeting is the chief executive of a 100-percent government owned Russian grain company,” the news service writes, noting, “A very hot, dry summer is blamed for Russia’s wheat harvest shortfall, which led Moscow to ban grain exports. Russia is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters.”

FAO “is hosting the one-day session Friday at its Rome headquarters. … FAO says it will make public its quarterly outlook on cereal supply and demand, both globally and regionally, on Friday during the closed-door meeting on price concerns” (D’Emilio, 9/23).

Rising food prices are “not a crisis on the scale of 2008, but it is a growing concern and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has convened a special meeting in Rome to discuss the issue,” the BBC reports in a story examining the FAO’s monthly food price index over the last 12 months.

“All the main food types in the FAO index are up from the levels of a year ago, with the exception of sugar. And within cereals, rice is lower although it has started to gain since May,” the news service writes. But the general trend is upwards. The rise is particularly strong for dairy produce and the meat price index is at its highest ever. … Overall, the FAO describes the cost of staple foods as ‘stubbornly high.’ And the agency says the financial crisis is ‘straining the ability of the poor to cope.'” The article looks at the factors influencing the rise in food prices (Walker, 9/24).

The Guardian examines a recent paper (.pdf) from Olivier De Schutter, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on food, which looks at the influence of market speculation on food prices, which will be discussed at the FAO meeting (Vidal, 9/24).  

In related news, Samuel Jutzi, director of the animal production and health division at the FAO, recently said at the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) annual lecture that large food corporations’ lobbying efforts are able to delay decisions and “water down” reforms that could affect human health, the Guardian reports. “He said action to reform the way global agriculture works was essential in light of the projected doubling of food production by 2050 at the same time as increase water, land and energy scarcity,” the newspaper writes.

The article features more comments by Jutzi as well as Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University, London, and Joyce d’Silva of CIWF (Jowit, 9/22).

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