Rome Food Security Summit

Boost production to ease the food crisis, says UN chief

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food production Food security Poverty Agriculture

Stepping up food production and ending trade restrictions could
lift millions out of poverty while helping bring down soaring
prices, said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon.

At this week's food summit in Rome, he said the underlying issue is that the world needs to provide more food. "Food production needs to rise by 50 per cent by the year 2030 to meet rising demand,"​ he said. He added that limiting exports and imposing price controls will only exacerbate the problem: "Beggar thy neighbour food policies cannot work. They only distort markets and force prices even higher." ​ US and China representatives echoed his calls for an end to trade restrictions. Furthermore, a consensus needs to be reached over biofuels, Ban Ki-Moon said, as debates continue to rage over their effect on food prices and the food supply. To help increase food production, the FAO said its $17m Initiative on Soaring Food Prices, launched last December to respond to rising food prices and dwindling supplies, needs to be stepped up to provide $1.7bn. This amount would help begin reviving neglected agricultural systems and helping small farmers, it said. The international gathering has also seen the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding to build partnerships in order optimise food production in breadbasket areas, where there is good rainfall, soils, infrastructure and markets. "The high prices are a burden for all of us, no one will be immune,"​ said FAO's assistant director-general, Jose Maria Sumpsi. "Prices have been steadily rising for some time, but the sudden sharp jump this year is just one small symptom of an illness caused by years of neglect of world agriculture. This imbalance now threatens the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people, who have been priced out of the food they need to survive." FAO helps small farmers ​According to the FAO, poor farmers can benefit from high prices and boost the supply of locally available food, while helping to bring the prices back again. The initiative responds to four key areas identified as providing small farmers with the means to increase agricultural production. Firstly, it seeks to provide seeds, fertiliser and tools together with advice to ensure the best use is made of supplies, thereby laying the foundations for sustainable production. Secondly, it is aimed at improving the infrastructure in developing countries such as irrigation systems, market infrastructure and rural roads. Thirdly, research and the sharing of knowledge is important to raise crops that are higher-quality and with a higher yield. And lastly, the initiative offers technical assistance and advice on reducing losses, because as much as one-fifth of a harvest can be wasted. International collaboration ​The new memorandum was signed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The partnership will work closely with other stakeholders in breadbasket areas to improve food production, food security and rural incomes. It will place particular focus on environmental monitoring, and conserving biodiversity. Innovation is another crucial area for helping the world's poor and bringing spiralling food prices under control, according to the partners. The agreement will coordinate and share agricultural development innovations across varied ecological zones and associated crops. "This collaborative initiative is part of AGRA's strategic vision to build partnerships that pool the strengths and resources of the public and private sectors, civil society, farmers organizations, donors, scientists and entrepreneurs across the agricultural value chain,"​ said Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA. FAO director-general Jacques Diouf said: "This initiative is an important contribution to reduce the number of more than 200m hungry people in sub-SaharanAfricaby boosting food production and productivity, and improving the livelihoods of millions of people in rural areas." Today at the summit ​Outcomes from four roundtables will be presented during today's proceedings. These cover the areas:

  • High food prices, causes, consequences and solutions

  • Climate change and food security

  • Transboundary pests and diseases

  • Bioenergy and food security

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