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Farm aid and fair trade key to food crisis - UN

UN: Increased aid for agriculture and the abolition of rich-nation subsidies are key to finding a long-term solution to rising world food prices, the head of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said on Saturday.

A doubling of the price of major cereals on international markets since mid-2007 has sharply increased the risk of hunger and poverty in developing countries, and has already sparked food riots in parts of Asia and Africa.

UNCTAD boss Supachai Panitchpakdi said a disproportionate amount of aid had been spent on governance initiatives in the developing world in recent decades while agriculture had been neglected, leaving some poor countries which were once net food exporters reliant on expensive imports.

"We will be jumping from one crisis to another unless the international community can address the major issue of a restructuring of the allocation of international aid," he told a news conference on the eve of an UNCTAD summit in Ghana.

Panitchpakdi said that between 2003 and 2005, $1.3 billion of development aid was spent on governance initiatives in the world's poorest countries, compared with just $12 million on agricultural development, which he described as "more than disproportionate".

This decade will be the first in recorded history in which more people in the economically active population of the least developed nations will seek work outside the agricultural sector than within it, exacerbating the problem, he said.

"People are moving out of agriculture into urban areas, most of them cannot find work. We have less support coming out of the agricultural population and more mouths to be fed," he said.

"The productivity gap has been increasing and at the moment there is no end in sight."

While urgent action was needed to provide food aid to pockets of the world where there were shortages, a longer-term solution needed to take into account that there are also areas of food surplus around the globe, Panitchpakdi said.

The former World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief said finding agreement at the delicately poised WTO agriculture negotiations and eliminating rich-nation subsidies was a vital part of addressing those inconsistencies.

Accra, Sunday, Reuters


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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