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23 June 2009

FAO: World Food Summit in November 2009

The FAO Council, meeting in Rome from 15-19 June, has agreed to hold the third World Food Summit in November 2009 (CL 136/22) in order to strengthen commitment from world leaders to eradicate hunger by 2025 and to address the root causes of the present situation through the full implementation of the Human Right to Food.

According to estimates published by FAO, world hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1.02 billion people going hungry every day, roughly an increase of 100 million more than last year, representing one-sixth of all humanity. Furthermore, the most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment leading to reduced access to food by the poor.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf noted that the silent hunger crisis poses a serious risk for world peace and security and poor countries must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity.

“Many of the world’s poor and hungry are smallholder farmers in developing countries. Yet they have the potential not only to meet their own needs but to boost food security and catalyse broader economic growth. To unleash this potential and reduce the number of hungry people in the world, governments, supported by the international community, need to protect core investments in agriculture so that smallholder farmers have access not only to seeds and fertilisers but to tailored technologies, infrastructure, rural finance, and markets,” said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“The rapid march of urgent hunger continues to unleash an enormous humanitarian crisis. The world must pull together to ensure emergency needs are met as long term solutions are advanced,” Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, said.

Almost all of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries. In Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 642 million people are suffering from chronic hunger; in Sub-Saharan Africa 265 million; in Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million; in the Near East and North Africa 42 million; and in developed countries 15 million in total.

The urban poor will probably face the most severe problems in coping with the global recession, because lower export demand and reduced foreign direct investment are more likely to hit urban jobs harder. However, FAO warns that rural areas will not be spared either as millions of urban migrants will have to return to the countryside, forcing the rural poor to share the burden in many cases.

Some developing countries are also struggling with the fact that remittances sent from migrants back home have declined substantially this year, causing the loss of foreign exchange and household income. Reduced remittances and a projected decline in official development assistance will further limit the ability of countries to access capital for sustaining production and creating safety nets and social protection schemes for the poor, FAO warns.

Unlike previous crises, developing countries have less room to adjust to the deteriorating economic conditions, because the turmoil is affecting practically all parts of the world more or less simultaneously. The scope for remedial mechanisms, including exchange-rate depreciation and borrowing from international capital markets for example, to adjust to macroeconomic shocks, is more limited in a global crisis.

The economic crisis also comes on the heel of the food and fuel crisis of 2006-08. While food prices in world markets declined over the past months, domestic prices in developing countries came down more slowly. They remained on average 24% higher in real terms by the end of 2008 compared to 2006. For poor consumers, who spend up to 60% of their incomes on staple foods, this means a strong reduction in their effective purchasing power. Although international food commodity prices have declined, they are still 24% higher than in 2006 and 33% higher than in 2005.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World will be presented in October 2009. See also FAO’s World Food Situation webpage.

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