The world's hungry population increased by 50 million people last year due to soaring food prices,
the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced Thursday, with the effect most notable in poor nations.
The food crisis was triggered by surging demand for agricultural products due to population and economic growth in emerging market nations, increased use of biofuels and an inadequate supplies of cereals which are at historic lows.
Further aggravating problems are the restrictive protectionist measures taken by some exporting nations, speculation on futures markets and high prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, according to an official FAO statement.
Climate change is also playing a substantial role, according to the FAO, with the world losing between 5 and 10 million hectares of agricultural land annually due to severe degradation. The consequence of a global temperature rise of over three degrees could be a drop in major crop yields by 20 to 40 per cent in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Read releated story here.
Complicating matters with global food aid, the proportion of agriculture in official development assistance has fallen from 17 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 2006 while investment in agricultural research in developing countries is shy of 0.6 percent of gross domestic product.
The FAO asserts that more public and private investment is needed to enhance agricultural production in developing countries and that farmers must receive additional support through the supply of seeds and fertilizers.