Food and Agriculture Organisation director-general, Jacques Diouf, has appealed to world leaders for a $30bn cash injection to “re-launch” agriculture in developing countries and avert the threats of conflict over food.
Opening this week’s high level conference on food security in Rome, Dr Diouf noted that, in 2006, the world spent $1,200bn on arms while food wasted in a single country could cost $100bn.
“Against that backdrop, how can we explain to people of good sense that it was not possible to find $30bn a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to food?” Dr Diouf asked.
The structural solution lay in increasing agricultural productivity in low-income, food-deficit countries, he declared.
This called for “innovative and imaginative solutions”, including “partnership agreements between countries that have financial resources, management capabilities and technologies and countries that have land, water and human resources”.
The current world food crisis had already led to food riots in some countries and could further endanger world peace, Dr Diouf said.
But, he continued, “today the facts speak for themselves: from 1980 to 2005 aid to agriculture fell from $8bn to $3.4bn, representing a reduction in real terms of 58%”.
Stepping up production
NFU vice-president Paul Temple also addressed the conference , calling for a “fundamental change of culture that properly values the productive dimension of agriculture.”
Speaking before the conference, he said: “There needs to be a clear acknowledgement of the value of stepping up production and this needs to be backed by some serious investment in research and development – accompanied by a genuine attack on red tape, which is holding us back.
“We need to increase our fuel security. Europe, along with some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, is heavily reliant on fossil fuel imports. Finding alternatives to these through the utilisation of biomass will be of great importance. Countries in Asia and South America are already seeing their economies start to prosper as a result of biofuels and the alternatives market.”
But the FAO remains sceptical. Dr Diouf said it was “incomprehensible” that subsidies worth $11bn in 2006 were used to divert 100m tonnes of cereals from human consumption “mostly to satisfy a thirst for fuels for vehicles”.