FAO: Economic Crisis Puts Hunger on the Rise

December 8, 2008 06:00 PM
 

Pro Farmer Editors

 

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says another 40 million people have been pushed into hunger this year primarily due to higher food prices. This brings the overall number of undernourished people in the world to 963 million, compared to 923 million in 2007 and the ongoing financial and economic crisis could tip even more people into hunger and poverty, FAO warned.

"World food prices have dropped since early 2008, but lower prices have not ended the food crisis in many poor countries," said FAO Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem, presenting the new edition of FAO's hunger report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008. For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream. The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality."

Prices of major cereals have fallen by over 50 percent from their peaks earlier in 2008 but they remain high compared to previous years. Despite its sharp decline in recent months, the FAO Food Price Index was still 28 percent higher in October 2008 compared to October 2006. With prices for seeds and fertilizers (and other inputs) more than doubling since 2006, poor farmers could not increase production. But richer farmers, particularly those in developed countries, could afford the higher input costs and expand plantings. As a result, cereal production in developed countries is likely to rise by at least 10 percent in 2008. The increase in developing countries may not exceed even one percent.

"If lower prices and the credit crunch associated with the economic crisis force farmers to plant less food, another round of dramatic food prices could be unleashed next year," Ghanem added. "The 1996 World Food Summit target, to reduce the number of hungry by half by 2015, requires a strong political commitment and investment in poor countries of at least $30 billion per year for agriculture and social protection of the poor," Ghanem said.

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