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Africa
UN calls for action on food crisis
Ban Ki-moon warns rising prices are setting back the fight against global poverty.
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2008 08:59 GMT
Ban said that rising prices were "worrisome"
and could harm Africa in particular [AFP]
The UN secretary-general has warned that the global food crisis is setting back the fight against global poverty and called on world powers to find a solution to rising prices.

Ban Ki-moon's comments came on Sunday at the beginning of five days of trade talks in Accra, Ghana's capital.
Ban said that the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) "could not have come at a more crucial time".

Food prices have risen about 40 per cent worldwide, leaving many poor countries struggling to contain the skyrocketing cost of rice, sugar and cooking oil.
Ban said the rising prices are "a worrisome situation and pose a threat to countries in Africa".
 
Rising prices
 
In recent months the soaring price of essential foodstuffs such as rice, wheat and corn in some of the world's poorest nations have caused demonstrations in Cameroon, Burkina Faso and across Africa.

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Ban stressed the plight of the world's 50 poorest nations, whose population he referred to as the "bottom billion".
 
"The rising economic tide has not lifted all boats. The poor in 142 of the world's nations are being pulled into the growing global economy. But those of the other 50, the poorest of the world's poor, are not. The global boom has passed them by," he said.
 
Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, and John Kufuor, his Ghanaian counterpart, also spoke about food and agriculture as the conference got under way.

Lula emphasised the need to find a sustainable solution to the rise in global food prices.

"The food price hikes should not result in strategies for the  poorest and the most needy. We must develop mechanisms to ensure  that the most needy do not lack food.

Staple crops

Lula spent Sunday with Kufuor inaugurating the Accra headquarters of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), which studies how to improve the production of staple crops such as cassava, rice, beans and soya beans.
 
Global food crisis



Food riots have erupted in Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Haiti in the past month

 

In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops have been deployed to avoid food being seized from fields and warehouses

 

Prices in these countries for foodstuffs such as rice, wheat, sorghum and maize have doubled

 

Causes of crisis range from financial speculation on food commodities, desertification, population increases, China and India's economic growth and use of grains to make biofuels

 

Cost of funding projects enabling governments to tackle food crisis could be up to $1.7bn

 

However, world cereal production in 2008 is projected to increase by 2.6 per cent to a record 2,164 million tonnes

 

Source: United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)

He said EMBRAPA represented "the spearhead of our conviction to extend to developing countries, and more specifically to African countries, the benefits that EMBRAPA has brought and will continue to bring to Brazil".
 
But Ghanaian officials have said that EMBRAPA Accra will be one of very few concrete projects resulting from the sharing of technology between developing nations - the much touted South-South co-operation.
 
Lula hit out at those who have criticised Brazil for letting agricultural land encroach on the Amazon rainforest and growing sugar cane, which is intended for producing bio-fuels, on land that could have been used for food production.
 
He urged developed countries to look to other parts of the world which still have expanses of arable land.
 
"They should look towards those countries that did not have opportunities in the 20th century," he said.
 
"It is precisely the very poor countries that still have a lot of arable land."
 
He also renewed his call for rich countries - notably the US and EU member states - to do away with farm subsidies.
Source:
Agencies
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