Food summit draws up plan to "eliminate hunger"

Tue Jun 3, 2008 6:29pm EDT
 
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By Stephen Brown and Robin Pomeroy

ROME (Reuters) - A U.N. global food crisis summit will draw up an emergency plan on Wednesday to mobilize aid, reduce trade barriers and invest in farming in poor countries to stop the spread of hunger threatening nearly one billion people.

"We commit to eliminating hunger and to securing food for all, today and tomorrow," read a draft declaration from the three-day Rome summit, whose opening session on Tuesday was attended by leaders of about 44 nations.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization called the emergency meeting amid soaring commodity prices that threaten to add as many as 100 million more people to the 850 million already going hungry and destabilize governments.

The cost of major food commodities has doubled over the last couple of years, with rice, corn and wheat at record highs. The OECD sees prices retreating from their current peaks but still up to 50 percent higher in the coming decade.

After lofty speeches from leaders on Tuesday, many of whom blamed trade barriers and biofuels, championed by Brazil and the United States, for driving up prices, delegates will hold talks on Wednesday to prepare a declaration for release on Thursday.

The draft declaration promised to "stimulate food production and to increase investment in agriculture, to address obstacles to food access and to use the planet's resources sustainably for present and future generations."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called hunger "degrading" and said the cost of increasing supply by 50 percent by 2030 to meet rising demand would be $15-20 billion a year, will receive a petition from on-line rights group Avaaz.org.

"We call on you to take immediate action to address the world food crisis by mobilizing emergency funding to prevent starvation, removing perverse incentives to turn food into biofuels and managing financial speculation," the petition says.   Continued...

 
<p>Residents purchase local rice sold by the government at subsidized prices outside the National Food Authority (NFA) warehouse in Quezon city, Metro Manila June 3, 2008. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco</p>