Director General of UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Dr Jacques Diouf said 98 percent of the hungry live in developing countries where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed their growing populations. According to a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) here on Monday, Diouf made the remark in his message on World Food Day, October 17, 2011
The full text of his message reads:
“Food prices – from crisis to stability” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on a trend that is hurting the poor consumer, the small producer and agriculture in general. Food prices, which were stable for decades, have become increasingly volatile.
“If we are to seriously address the issue of world hunger, more effort has to be made to address the problem of food price fluctuations, particularly for those who spend most of their incomes on food, to ensure that they can return from the market with enough for their families to eat nutritiously.
“The causes of food price instability are well known. However, counteracting this instability requires political will.
“The global food market is tight, with supply struggling to keep pace with demand and stocks are at or near historical lows. Droughts or floods hitting key producing regions squeeze prices further. Agriculture cannot respond fast enough with increased food production because of long-term under-investment in research, technology, equipment and infrastructure.
“Increased wealth means many people worldwide are eating more meat and dairy products, driving up the price of animal feed. Eighty million people are born every year, creating more demand for food.
“A further contributing factor may be the recent entry of institutional investors with large sums of money into food commodity futures markets. In addition, distorting agricultural and protectionist trade policies bear a significant part of the blame.
“At the level of net food-importing countries, price rises can hurt poor countries by making it much more expensive for them to import food for their people. Farmers are also affected because they badly need to know, months away, the price their crops will fetch at harvest time. If high prices are likely, they plant more. If low prices are forecast, they plant less and cut costs. Rapid price swings make that calculation much more difficult.
“Greater policy coordination in international food trade can reduce volatility by helping maintain an assured flow of goods. FAO supports the elimination of trade-distorting agricultural subsidies in rich countries.
“On speculation, FAO’s research suggests that while this might not trigger price movements, it could exaggerate their size and duration. More and better information is needed to allow greater transparency in trade on futures markets. This would help ensure that governments and traders make informed decisions and avoid panic or irrational reactions.
“As to mitigating the effects of volatility on the poor, national or regional safety nets, possibly featuring emergency food reserves, can help assure food supplies to the needy during crises. Poor consumers can also be assisted with cash or food vouchers and farmers helped with inputs such as fertilizer and seeds.
“Various financial mechanisms can help governments protect consumers from food price increases. One example is call options, which would give governments the right to buy food at a set price even months ahead, regardless of how the market has moved in the meantime.
“Ultimately though, stability in the food market depends on increased investment in agriculture, particularly in developing countries, where 98 percent of the hungry live and where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed growing populations.
“On World Food Day 2011, let us reflect seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and articulate alternatives on what needs to be done at national, regional and global levels to reduce the impact on almost a billion people who do not have enough to eat.”