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UN Holds Food Crisis Talks in Switzerland


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is heading emergency talks aimed at tackling the growing crisis caused by soaring food prices around the world. Participating in this two-day high-powered meeting in the Swiss capital, Bern, are the President of the World Bank, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and the Heads of nearly 30 United Nations aid agencies. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says the steeply rising price of food has developed into a global crisis. He says the U.N.-sponsored meeting in Bern must find solutions to a problem that is increasing poverty, hunger and instability in the world.

The United Nations estimates about 100 million of the world's poorest people cannot afford to buy food. Because of the spiraling costs, the World Food Program says its original budget for this year is not enough to feed all the hungry. It is appealing for an additional three quarters of $1 billion to meet the extra expenses.

The U.N. refugee agency says millions of refugees and internally displaced people will be particularly hard hit by skyrocketing food prices. Spokesman, Ron Redmond, says most of these people are totally dependent on food donations from the international community.

"This kind of dramatic price increases can also trigger instability, particularly in poor countries and this is of great concern to UNHCR as well, because we are already seeing this happening in several countries," said Redmond. "Of course, the possibility could be eventual increased displacement should it trigger further conflict and instability in those countries."

The Food and Agriculture Organization warns sharp rises in cereal prices have left 37 poor countries in an emergency situation. This has sparked food riots in many countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Senegal.

The meeting in Bern will also address the impact of climate change on food production and explore ways to help poor countries adapt to these changes. The growing controversy over bio-fuels is also on the agenda.

Critics argue that the cultivation of crops for bio-fuels is taking good land away from food production and causing prices to rise. Some people are calling for a moratorium on the production of bio-fuels.

The U.N. meeting is expected to come up with a plan of emergency measures to solve the immediate global food crisis. Participants also will begin to address the longer-term problems.

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