Euro-African conference explores future of food

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

Growing populations and rocketing food prices are painting a bleak
picture for the future of food, but there are avenues to explore to
stave off impending crises, according to a European
Parliament-French government conference last week.

European and African politicians met in Brussels and proposed the abolition of subsidies, a change of direction on biofuels, more free-trade, and substantial investment as possible options to ensure people have sufficient food in the future. With commodity costs impacted by double-digit rises, and compounded by energy costs that saw oil top $145 a barrel last week, the food industry will take an interest in the proposals that could bring some future relief to costs in the supply chain. EU development commissioner Louis Michel told attendees at the "Who will feed the World?" conference that Europe should consider giving unused agricultural subsidies, suggested to be as much as €1 bn, to farmers in the developing world to fight food shortages, according to an article published on the European Parliament website. Jacques Diou, director-general of the UN's FAO said that food prices rises in 2007 had led to an addition 50 million people around the world being classified as hungry. This gives a current global figure of 850 million people suffering from hunger or malnutrition. Agricultural subsidies also came under fire from Neil Parish, a British MEP. "We need to free our farmers from regulation, bureaucracy and market distorting subsidy,"​ he said. G8, CIAA and biofuels ​ The ongoing G8 summit is taking a similar stance, with a new system of food reserves and stocks playing a role in reducing the risk of future price escalations, biofuels, in particular, set to be addressed by attending leaders. Earlier this year, concerned about the EU policy on biofuels, Europe's food and drink body, the CIAA, called on Europe to take a closer look at strategy and the impact on sustainability. "While the proposed EU directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources introduced a number of improvements compared to earlier drafts...These elements are far from sufficient to address core food and drink industry concerns as regards the potential impact the policy will have on the availability of raw materials for food and feed production,"​ warned the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU. Further, citing the ongoing food price phenomenon that has seen world prices of wheat, grains, rice and oilseed crops double between 2005 and 2007, the CIAA attested that the "directive should offer Member States a mechanism for the temporary suspension of national biofuels targets to prevent crisis situations."​ Stoking the fire, UK newspaper The Guardian​ wrote yesterday that biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75 per cent - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the newspaper.

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