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United Nations summit on food security

United Nations summit on food security A UN food summit promised on Thursday to relieve hunger threatening one billion people, but anti-poverty campaigners said rich countries needed to commit to long-term action to boost food output and free up trade.

The three-day Rome summit of 183 countries narrowly avoided an embarrassing failure when Latin Americans protested at points in the declaration. But it finally committed to
eliminating hunger and to securing food for all, today and tomorrow. Delegates and campaigners agreed the summit had succeeded in putting soaring food prices at the top of the global agenda.

Commodity prices have doubled over the last couple of years and the World Bank says 100 million people risk joining the 850 million already going hungry. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development sees prices of rice, corn and wheat retreating from peaks but still up to 50 per cent higher in the next decade and the FAO says food output must rise 50 per cent by 2050 to meet demand.

Aid agencies and campaigners urged rich nations to make more tangible decisions at July’s Group of Eight summit in Japan. Grain and beef exporter Argentina objected to criticism in the declaration of export curbs like those it has imposed to shield consumers from food inflation — measures which have angered its farmers.

Washington’s Schafer said countries should understand that such restrictions cause food inflation. Asian rice stockpiling is blamed for high rice prices that have even led to riots.

Although the summit was not meant to produce promises of aid or set new global policies, it should put hunger higher up on the agenda of the G8 summit next month. By then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to have issued an action plan. The Rome debate on potential benefits to poor farmers of new global trade rules will also feed into a push to conclude the Doha round of World Trade Organisation talks.

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