UN to set up food crisis task force

Ban Ki-moon says group will address funding shortfalls in World Food Programme.

     Ban (right) will lead a task force which will have UN agencies like FAO and WFP taking a lead role [AFP]

    "We must ensure food for tomorrow," he said.

    Global response

     

    Ban said there were a number of causes of the food crisis including climate change, long spells of drought, changing consumption patterns in major developing countries and the planting of crops for biofuel.

    Your Views

    How is the rising cost of staple foods affecting you?



    Send us your views

    He said new measures had to go further than just providing emergency food relief when crises hit unlike the previous global response.

    Fred Mousseau of the Oxfam aid agency told Al Jazeera that the setting up of the task force showed that the world was taking the problem seriously.


    "All the main UN agencies, and the World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund] are getting together and recognising that we have a big problem to deal with and we need to do something about it," he said.


    "That's a good start, to get together, have a concerted, coherent action plan put in place to address the current problems."

    Seed plan

     

    Ban said that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has developed a $1.7 billion plan to provide seeds for farmers in the world's poorest countries.

     

    IN VIDEO


    Philippines battles rice crisis

    "We must make every effort to support those farmers," Ban said.

     

    He also hoped world leaders would come to a June meeting in Rome to find ways to tackle the food crisis.

     

    He said the international community had previously not listened to warnings from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and others.

     

     "This time the whole United Nations is now leading this campaign to address this issue," he said.

    Export restrictions

    Ban urged countries such as Brazil and Egypt to drop export restrictions on certain foods and commodities, saying they have actually reduced supplies and contributed to price hikes.

    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)

    Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt have all imposed limitations on the export of certain produce in order to ensure food security for their populations.  

    "Domestic policy measures that correct distortions and do not jeopardise the supply response need to be put in place, together with budget support measures and balance of payments support for the  most affected countries," Ban said.

    His calls were echoed by Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organisation director general, and Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank.

    "We urge countries not to use export bans. These controls encourage hoarding, drive up prices and hurt the poorest people around the world," Zoellick said.

    The call came after the Philippines, the world's largest importer of rice, urged the World Bank to use "moral persuasion"  to urge nations to lift the bans.


    "Everyone seems to be afraid to release it [rice] into the international market. It's going against pricing," Arthur Yap, agriculture secretary, said.

    The Philippine government has announced plans to introduce "rice access cards" for the country's poor to buy subsidised grain in a bid to stave off an escalating food crisis.

    Poverty increasing 

     

    Zoellick said 100 million people are estimated to have been pushed into poverty over the past two years.

     

    "This is not a natural disaster," Zoellick said.

     

    He said $475 million has already been pledged to WFP but more is needed.

     

    "This crisis isn't over once the emergency needs are met," Zoellick said.

     

    "The world can afford this ... I think we've now got the attention of the world community.

     

    "We can't just replay this year after year after year."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    More than 300 people died in Somalia but some are asking why there was less news coverage and sympathy on social media.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Kobe Steel: A scandal made in Japan

    Kobe Steel: A scandal made in Japan

    Japan's third-largest steelmaker has admitted it faked data on parts used in cars, planes and trains.