Tackling global food crisis | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 06, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 06, 2008


Tackling global food crisis

Will the rich countries respond?

The Rome summit on tackling the on-going worldwide food crisis is a sign of the desperation nations are faced with. It is especially the poorer nations that have been at the receiving end, with all the rises in food prices in the past several months. The extent to which food has now assumed the shape of a serious problem can be gauged from the doubling of prices in the last three years. Prices are at a 30-year high, a terrible reality that calls for concerted efforts to be expended in handling the situation. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's belief that global food production must register a huge rise in order to cope with demand is in effect a broad hint of the problem on the world's hands.
There are, given the objective reality, two issues related to food today. The first is of course the unprecedented rice in prices, a fact that has led to riots in a number of countries. And the second is the shortage of food, a malady that calls for effective and efficient handling. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has indicated a way out of the crisis, tentatively at least, by asking developed nations to release their excess food stockpiles in order for people in poorer countries to be fed. Even so, much more needs to be done to help farmers in the underdeveloped regions of the world cope with their problems. The matter of subsidies being given to them merits serious consideration, especially against the backdrop of the significant help given to farmers in the developed world. There is too the question of whether the use of biofuels by developed nations has contributed to the fantastic rise in food prices. Brazilian President Lula has denied that it has, but that is certainly no conclusive answer. The fact is that biofuels have been instrumental in the making of the crisis. And then, of course, there are the other reasons.
The immediate future, unless handled in a mature way, promises to be bleak. Two billion people worldwide are struggling against food price rises and a hundred million are in danger of falling into poverty. It is an assessment from the World Bank's Robert Zoellick. And it is shared by others.

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