terça-feira, abril 08, 2008


NEW YORK, 6 April 2008 (IRIN) - With soaring food prices expected to continue for the foreseeable future, the World Bank is calling for a "new deal" of long-term measures, ranging from increased investment in African agriculture to genetically engineering fuel-producing plants. Aid organisations are already confronting growing financial shortfalls in their struggle to feed the world's hungry as food prices have exploded over the past six months, propelled by increased demand from newly prosperous Asian countries like China, rising fuel prices and the diversion of land from food crops to bio-fuel production. The problem extends way beyond usual temporary production blips like the recent Australian drought, the volatility of soaring oil prices and a falling dollar, and could be severely compounded by climate change - with harsher droughts in some parts of the world and more severe flooding in others predicted. In a worst case scenario not only could mortality and disease from malnutrition, already the underlying cause of an estimated 3.5 million child deaths each year, soar, but widespread social and political unrest might erupt. Food riots have already been reported in several countries and the World Bank estimates that 33 nations face potential social unrest. More on food security NIGERIA: Fuel shortages cause price hikes for northerners THAILAND: Rising rice prices fuel fears of food shortages and starvation GLOBAL: Gates Foundation moves to fight killer wheat disease SRI LANKA: Variable rains and flooding impact on rice harvest TIMOR-LESTE: WFP shifts focus of food assistance COTE D'IVOIRE: Government curbs prices after second day of confrontations GUINEA: End of fuel subsidy increases economic woes SENEGAL: Heavy handed response to food protesters SOUTHERN AFRICA: Feeling the bite of rising food prices"For these countries, where food comprises from half to three-quarters of consumption [spending], there is no margin for survival," World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick told the Center for Global Development in Washington on 2 April, calling for a "new deal" combining hundreds of millions of additional dollars for immediate relief with long-term efforts to boost agricultural productivity in developing countries. He announced that the Bank would nearly double agricultural assistance to US$800 million in Africa, adding: "We can help create a 'Green Revolution' for sub-Saharan Africa." Just last month the UN World Food Programme (WFP) issued an "" to world government leaders, endorsed by Zoellick yesterday, for an additional $500 million over the $2.9 billion it sought a few months ago, just to feed the same 73 million people in 78 countries. Policy questions For some the World Bank's "new deal," which follows up on the conclusions of a report last year, has been too slow in coming. "The World Bank, I would say very belatedly, acknowledged the importance of the agricultural sector," Tom Arnold, chief executive of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Concern Worldwide, which seeks to reduce suffering in the poorest countries, told IRIN. "Immediately, there needs to be a recognition that if we are to have some kind of international safety net in place for the most vulnerable people on the planet, then responding positively to something like WFP is an important aspect," he said. "For the longer term, there are a lot of big policy questions that need to be addressed both nationally and internationally, such as taking agriculture more seriously in the economic sector... Any short-term measures to alleviate the problem have to go hand in hand with a serious and strategic commitment to promoting agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa."