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World Leaders Pledge to Combat Food Crisis

  • Sabina Castelfranco

World leaders at a UN summit in Rome have pledged to reduce trade barriers and boost agricultural production to combat a global food crisis. At the end of a 3-day world food security summit in Rome, delegates approved a declaration resolving to ease the suffering caused by soaring food prices. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

It was no easy matter for the delegates at the world food security summit in Rome to reach an agreement on a final declaration to ease increasing hunger in the world. Nearly 5,000 representatives from more than 180 countries spent three days discussing how to ease the suffering caused by soaring food prices.

Delegates held their talks at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. At the end of a long third day, an agreement was reached. FAO Director General Jacques Diouf had said at the start of the conference that the time had come for action.

"We have approved a declaration, you know that it has not been very easy as usual and, in addition, during the discussions, the third elements of the global framework for action, global framework for action, that document was also presented in the framework of the task force," he said.

He added that what essentially was reached at the Rome conference was a political declaration of intent to ease hunger. The document calls for swift help for small-holder farmers in poor countries who need seed, fertilizers and animal feed in time for the approaching planting season. But it remains to be seen if the words adopted in Rome will translate into changed farm or trade policies at home.

Diouf said the gathering wasn't a pledging conference but billions of US dollars from countries, regional banks and the World Bank were promised to combat hunger.

"At the closing of the conference the representative of the United States indicated that they would be committing 5 billion US dollars over the next years in support of agriculture and food security," he said.

Some Latin American countries have raised strong objections to the declaration. These included Cuba that was disappointed the document does not criticize the long-standing U.S. embargo against the Communist-run island.

Argentina was unhappy over the language about trade barriers. It says the declaration does not blame farm subsidies in the US, European Union and other Western food-producers for a major role in driving up prices.

Delegates at the summit also discussed the contentious issue of biofuels, recognizing that there are both "challenges and opportunity."

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