special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
President Bush comments on issue of food
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Bank President Robert Zoellick on Wednesday said the current food and
fuel price crisis is not natural but a "man-made catastrophe"
and urgently called on the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations and
oil producers to step in and help.
Meanwhile, President George Bush on Wednesday also addressed
the issue of food aid, saying he will encourage other leaders to increase
food, fertilizer and seed shipments to countries in need. “It’s
one thing to talk about the problem,” he said. “This is
a practical way to help countries deal with the lack of food.”
He also advocated efforts to help distressed countries grow more of
their own food. He said that “it makes sense for the United States,
if we’re going to be providing food aid, to encourage people to
grow their own food so we don’t have to deal with this problem
on a regular basis,” Bush said. He also urged the use of biotechnology
to help countries reduce their reliance on outside assistance and make
them more self-sustaining.
The recently signed emergency supplemental bill for
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan included $1.865 billion — or
$745 million more than the president’s request — for international
food and disaster assistance. The measure, which Bush signed on Monday,
includes $500 million more than the president requested for food assistance
under P.L. 480 and $245 million more than the president’s request
for development assistance and disaster assistance programs that are
designed to alleviate world hunger.
The G8 is an annual meeting attended by the leaders of Canada,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United
States, plus the president of the European Commission.
Zoellick writes a letter.
In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, host of the G8 economic
summit July 7-9, Zoellick said that $10 billion is needed to meet the
short-term needs of those hardest hit, including $3.5 billion for safety-net
assistance, such as school lunches and cash transfer programs, as well
as agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, in 50 countries.
The $6.5 billion balance represents short-term needs estimated by he UN
World Food Program.
"I urge the Group of Eight countries, in concert with major
oil producers, to act now to address this crisis," Zoellick said.
"This is a test of the global system to help the most vulnerable,
and it cannot afford to fail."
The bank said that the increases in corn, rice and wheat prices
since January 2006 cost developing countries $324 billion last year
alone, potentially pushing some 105 million people into poverty.
In some 40 countries, GDP could decline between 3 and 7 percent. While
grain prices have started to dip with the harvesting of this year's
crop, the bank said high prices are likely to persist into 2009 and
will remain "well above 2004 levels through 2015 for most food
"We are starting to see a breakdown in the international
food and agriculture market," Zoellick said at a seminar sponsored
by the American Enterprise Institute. He said restrictions on food exports
and talk of "self-sufficiency" are "far from an open
trading system." He added that, "The poor are getting hit
by a double jeopardy of food and fuel prices.”
Importantly, a World Bank report said
the G-8 should consider the merits of an internationally-coordinated virtual
humanitarian strategic reserve system for food emergencies.
Also, United Nations World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran
and her staff urged G8 leaders to consider endorsing an international
grain reserve for humanitarian purposes.
This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or
retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.