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October 09, 2011

UN Urges Action on Food Insecurity

by Sabina Castelfranco

Three United Nations food agencies say prices for rice, wheat and other key foods are expected to remain volatile and possibly increase.

In their annual report on global food insecurity, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development say poor farmers and consumers, particularly in Africa, would be most affected.

Kostas Stamoulis, director of the FAO Agricultural and Development Economics Division, says prices are expected to remain higher and more volatile.

"This constitutes a risky environment for global food security for countries that are small, [primary] food importers, but also for vulnerable groups within countries, whether [they] are exporters or importers," he says.

The report says investment in the agricultural sector is essential and that failure to increase productivity will result in continued price fluctuations, placing poor farmers and consumers in food-importing countries at greater risk for poverty.

"Increases in agricultural productivity would go a long way both in terms of increasing food production in a sustainable and efficient way, but also to provide income to the smaller, older families that are actually being hit hard by high volatile prices," says Stamoulis. He adds that overnments are urged to share information about food forecasts and stock levels to avoid price swings that resulted in food riots and social unrest from 2006 through 2008.

U.N. agencies say efforts to reduce the number of hungry people by half by 2015 are greatly challenged by the food and economic crises of recent years. And even if the targets are achieved, some 600 million people in developing countries would continue to remain hungry on a daily basis.