UN food crisis task force set up as hunger spreads



The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is setting up a task force to tackle the global food crisis.

Mr Ban said the world faced “widespread hunger, malnutrition and social unrest on an unprecedented scale” because of soaring food prices. He said the priority was to feed the hungry by closing a $755m (£380m) funding gap for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) this year.

He urged donor countries to make more money available now. WFP says only 62% of the $755m it needs to feed them has been pledged so far, and, of that, only $18m has actually been received.

The task force, to be chaired by Mr Ban, will be made up of the heads of UN agencies and the World Bank. “The first and immediate priority issue that we all agreed was that we must feed the hungry,” Mr Ban said after a meeting of agency heads in the Swiss capital, Bern.

He also called on the international community to “urgently address trade-distorting subsidies in developed countries, and the ongoing Doha trade round. “But also in the long term we need to address the challenges caused by climate change,” Mr Ban added.

The head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, who also attended the meeting in Bern, urged countries not to use export bans to protect food stocks. “These controls encourage hoarding, drive up prices and hurt the poorest people around the world who are struggling to feed themselves,” he said.

US biofuels

US President George W Bush said he was “deeply concerned” by high food prices at home and abroad. He said that diverting corn for the production of biofuels had only accounted for 15% of the rise in prices, which had otherwise been caused by weather, energy prices and increased demand.

“It’s in our national interest that we – our farmers – grow energy, as opposed to us purchasing energy from parts of the world that are unstable or may not like us,” he added. Mr Bush said the long-term solution would be to switch to cellulosic ethanol, which uses grasses or other non-food sources to produce fuels.

China’s rising food needs

The Beijing Morning newspaper reported that China might lease fields in Latin America, Australia and the former Soviet Union to replace farmland lost to urban and industrial development. Ten years ago a Chinese company formed a joint venture with the Cuban government to set up two farms to grow rice in Cuba. A similar venture has been set up in Mexico. More here.


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4 Responses to UN food crisis task force set up as hunger spreads

  1. earthpal says:

    Again, I can only say how frustrated I feel that so much food is wasted in the Western world and yet people starve.

    There is no food shortage, there an abundance of food but people starve because they can’t afford to buy it. This is a scandal of the worst kind.

    Read this article:

    It gets me soooo angry!!!

  2. matt says:

    Excellent article EP. To other readers, please read the above link.

    American big business and the Republicans will stop at nothing to sow the seeds of everyone else’s destruction just so they can control more & more resources for themselves, including the wealth that comes with it.

    Interestingly European biodiesel suppliers are urging the EU to take on the American’s over their subsidized biodiesel industry. D1 fuels here in the UK is laying off workers because of the Americans playing dirty, with subsidised biodiesel being sent over to Europe.

    What the World Bank, IMF and Anglo-American big business have done to wreck small farmers all around the world is scandalous. This time they have bit off more than they can chew. But, …. they really don’t care.

  3. earthpal says:

    I know Matt. It’s all so frustrating.

  4. the Grit says:

    Hi earthpal,

    Most of the food waste in the Western world is due to Government regulations. For example, one of our local charities worked out a deal with several restaurants to take their unsold meals (restaurants often cook ahead of orders to decrease service time, so they often have several plates of food left at closing) and distribute them to the needy. Sorry, no can do because of health regulations. There have also been cases where miss-labeled canned goods were destroyed instead of finding their way into food banks because it would violate Government regulations. I even had a personal experience with this. Four or five years ago (I have a really poor sense of time) I made the mistake of planting 60 squash plants instead of the 6 I normally add to the garden. Stupid, I know, but I figured the excess would go to neighbors, my wife’s employees, friends and such. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much squash people will take and, combined with marvelous weather that year, I found myself with 50-60 pounds of organically grown squash a DAY that I couldn’t use. Not being one to waste things if at all possible, I called the local food bank (a charity that collects food and distributes it to the needy) and offered them my amazing surplus. No joy. It turns out that Government regulations prevent them from handing out anything that isn’t commercially packaged. I then asked if I could throw it in the back of my truck, drive to a less fortunate neighborhood, and give it away myself. Again, no joy. Apparently, for our own good mind you, there are laws against giving away perfectly good food to strangers, not to mention the lawsuits anyone who was so daring as to willingly suffer the minor fine for the crime of charity would be open to.

    As to the article you mention, the author fails to take into consideration the political unrest in Africa and the devastating AIDs epidemic they are experiencing. Until they quit sleeping around like rabbits and hacking each other up with machetes and stifling under the massive government corruption that infests most countries there, there’s little chance that local economies will be able to provide for local needs. This, you should note, is why aid to that Continent, under the Bush administration, has shifted from going to local Governments to going to local charitable organizations or to individuals. In the instances where this is not the case, there are new rules in place to hold Governments accountable for how the money is used. In addition, you should also note that our foreign aid in the area of AIDs to Africa has increased by a huge amount in the last 7 years. In a related bit of information, you’ll find that in areas with stable Governments, our foreign aid is going more to programs like Micro-loans than to large Government run projects. Sure, it’s Government stuff and so far from perfect, but at least we’re trying!

    Going further into your mentioned article, the alternative to a free market/capitalist system is Communism. If you doubt the efficiency of the current model, I suggest you do a bit of reading on how well Stalin’s Communist regime managed the commodity supply for the USSR. Once you get a historic perspective, you’ll understand why they tried to get “standing in line” added to the list of Olympic sports 🙂

    Hi matt,

    On your first bit, you are close, but not exactly hitting the mark. While it’s true that Republicans tend to feel that Big Business should be supported rather than punished for their success, if you look below the surface, you’ll find that our liberal party, Democrats, hold the same opinion with the only differences being the portion of their profits going to the Government and the amount of price gouging union labor the Government will make them employ. Neither of our political parties, I must point out as the good person that I am, gives a crap about you, your country, or anything else beyond the results of the next election, which will determine how much the personal fortunes of the individuals involved will be increased. Surprise! We’re just like the rest of you. Who would have guessed?

    As to biofuel subsides, I would think that Europe should have considered that when they banned imports of our genetically modified corn. It’s not our fault if you won’t eat it, but you’ll burn it in your cars 🙂

    On the subject of small farmers, and a very personal one at that since I am one, I hate to say but, just like any other business, you have to adapt or find something else to occupy your time with. Fortunately, with farming you have many more options than in other lines of industry. Truly, unlike Fred’s Flyswatter Emporium, the small farmer today, with a bit of credit and a lot of research, should easily be able to take advantage of the increased demands for organic produce and a wider variety of available foods. While it’s accurate to say that one would find it difficult to make a living growing 100 acres of feed corn, it’s also true that, with a bit of market research, it could easily be equally true that one could live very well growing 100 acres of specialty corn! If corn doesn’t work out, there’s always herbs, garlic, flowers, or any of a huge variety of other specialty crops. It’s much the same as the difficulty buggy whip manufacturers had when the automobile became popular. It’s also important to think about why we should accept the idea that consumers should pay a premium for their goods to support local industry if that industry doesn’t provide a superior product?

    the Grit

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