G20 urged to tackle the risk of another global food security crisis

Aid agency World Vision has urged G20 countries meeting in Seoul to take urgent action to avoid a repeat of the global food crisis of 2008, which thrust an additional 100 million people worldwide below the poverty line.

“One billion people suffer from hunger today. There are now danger signs that food prices are again starting to rise, threatening to push millions more people to the brink of starvation,” World Vision’s CEO Tim Costello said. 

“The G20 must recognize the harmful impact of food price volatility on poor, food insecure people. It must commit to efforts to avert any new global food price crisis and ensure greater stability in global food markets. 

“World Vision is calling on the Australian Government to use the G20 meeting in Seoul – where development assistance will be discussed – to address the structural causes of food insecurity, including restrictions on food trade and inadequate levels of public investment in agricultural research and development,” Mr Costello said. 

“Despite the well-known impacts and consequences of the 2008 world food crisis, there is still a chronic lack of worldwide funding set aside to ensure the world has a sustainable food supply.” 

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations says the fact that nearly a billion people remain hungry, even after the recent food and financial crises have largely passed, indicates a deeper structural problem. 

“We also urge the government to increase the amount of money allocated in the aid budget for agriculture and rural development to 12-14 percent of the total aid budget, and to prioritise its food security assistance to the needs of the most vulnerable, in particular children under two, pregnant/lactating women and the extremely poor,” Mr Costello said. 

In mid-2008 the world food supply came under pressures from a variety of sources, including poor harvests in the United States and Europe and prolonged drought in Australia, high oil prices, increasing demand for food and subsidised ethanol programs. 

“While the FAO does not expect a repeat of the 2008 food crisis this year, the factors that caused this crisis are still in play and in recent months we have seen an increase in extreme climate related weather events that have impacted on food supplies. The price of staple foods in many developing countries is also still very high,” Mr Costello said. 

“In the World Bank’s May 2010 Food Price Watch, it noted that civil and military conflicts, poor rainfall and earthquakes have impacted on food prices and availability. 

“Thousands of acres of crops were also destroyed in the forest fires in Russia and the floods in Pakistan. These countries now have less to export and the shortage means prices have risen sharply. 

“Between August and July this year wheat prices rose between 25 and 50 percent, highlighting how quickly the security of the world’s food supply can be changed.” 

Tim Costello is available for interview. 

Contact Dominic McInerney on 0428 584 809.

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