ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA — A strengthened global governance system for world food security is needed, said Jacques Diouf, director-general, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (F.A.O.), on June 6. And any aspects of the international trade system that have resulted in more hunger and poverty also must be changed, he added.
"We have to build a more coherent and effective system of governance for world food security; we have to correct the policies and international trade system that have resulted in more hunger and poverty," Mr. Diouf said at the opening session of the World Grain Forum that opened over the weekend in St Petersburg, the Russian Federation. The event is being attended by agriculture ministers and officials from more than 50 countries.
President Dmitry Medvedev is also attending the important meeting on global food security and the international grain market that was first proposed by the Russian Federation at the G8 summit in Japan last July.
The time of talk has long past, Diouf told the forum. "Now is the time for action," he added. "The food crisis has taught us that to defeat hunger, we have to deal with its root causes and not to continue coping with the consequences of past mistakes."
Beginning in 2006, the increase in food prices accelerated in 2007 and peaked by June 2008. Within two years, international prices of basic food commodities increased by approximately 60% while those for grains doubled, Mr. Diouf said.
The average prices of food are still 17% higher than in 2006 and 24% higher than in 2005. In addition, the "stock-to-use" ratio for cereals in 2007/08, at 20.2%, was at its lowest level in 30 years.
Increasing food prices resulted in the number of hungry people in the world to increase by 115 million, according to the F.A.O. and the financial crisis is aggravating the situation even more.
"Preliminary results of work conducted by F.A.O. show that the financial and economic crisis could drag more than 100 million persons into chronic hunger" Mr. Diouf, adding that 15% of the global population now do not get enough food to eat.
As of May, 31 countries are in a situation of food crisis requiring emergency assistance. Of these countries, 20 are in Africa, nine in Asia and the Near East and two in Central America and the Caribbean.
Mr. Diouf requested that more "proper" funds to assist developing countries increase their agricultural output by investing in rural infrastructures and ensuring access to modern inputs and "assistance of adequate institutions for small farmers."