Business leaders urged to help find hunger solutions

by Bryan Salvage
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MILAN, ITALY — The private sector’s importance in finding hunger solutions is increasing, as privatization, globalization and the transformation of the food chain from the farm to the table continues, said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (F.A.O.).

Mr. Diouf made his comments at an international private sector forum on food security. Held as a pre-Summit event on Nov. 12-13, the forum is organized within the context of the World Summit on Food Security, which takes place from Nov. 16-18 in Rome.

F.A.O. estimates investment needs in developing countries from Official Development Assistance (O.D.A.) at $44 billion per year. These investments will need to be complemented by financing from national budgets and private investments in primary agriculture and downstream services such as storage and processing, Mr. Diouf said.

It was encouraging that the private sector's interest in agriculture has increased, Mr. Diouf said. Foreign direct investment (F.D.I.) in the sector tripled since 2000 from $1billion to more than $3 billion in 2007, though he noted this total still represents less than 1% of total world F.D.I. inflows.

Mr. Diouf encouraged private companies to take a longer-term view of investment and business opportunities in developing regions rather than focusing on immediate needs. Companies were also encouraged to take the extra step of considering helping countries they perhaps have not previously helped before, particularly for input supply, produce procurement and agro-industry development.

International companies need to work closely with smaller and medium-scale local enterprises, including input suppliers, as well as food manufacturers, distributors and retailers, which are important intermediaries with primary producers and an important source for rural employment and income growth, he added.

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