Rising prices tip another 75-million towards starvation

Global numbers afflicted by acute hunger rose from 850-million to 925-million by the start of 2008 because of rising prices, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Wednesday.

The number of people suffering from malnutrition, before the worst effects of global price rises, “rose just in 2007 by 75-million”, Jacques Diouf, director general of the Rome-based agency, told an Italian Parliament committee, according to ANSA news agency.

An FAO prices index showed global food price rises of 12% in 2006, 24% in 2007 and 50% over the first eight months of 2008, Diouf added—suggesting the number affected is likely to top one billion by the end of the year.

“$30-billion per year must be invested to double food production and eliminate hunger,” Diouf said, calling the figure “modest” in comparison with the amount many countries spend on arms and agriculture.

An FAO summit vowed in June to halve global hunger by 2015 and take “urgent” action over the global food crisis, but only after going into overtime at the fractious gathering.

In a final declaration at the summit—which saw about $6,5-billion pledged but which exposed strains, notably over biofuels—world leaders also agreed to boost food production in poor countries.

The declaration restated similar conclusions from food summits in 1996 and 2002.

Diouf said previously that “under the current trends, that objective would be obtained in 2150 instead of 2015.”

Rising food prices have pushed 100-million people below the poverty line, the World Bank has estimated, and have sparked protests and even riots in some parts of the world, while also threatening world economic growth.

Experts have blamed a number of factors such as oil prices, growing use of biofuels and increased consumption of high-calorie food, particularly meat, in emerging economies.—AFP

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