News / Asia

UN Urges International Cooperation on Asia's Rising Food Prices

A worker carries a plate of food to be delivered to a customer in Indonesia, Jan. 28, 2011. Indonesia will suspend import duties on rice, soybeans and wheat as part of government efforts to fight inflation as Asian countries grapple with escalating food c
A worker carries a plate of food to be delivered to a customer in Indonesia, Jan. 28, 2011. Indonesia will suspend import duties on rice, soybeans and wheat as part of government efforts to fight inflation as Asian countries grapple with escalating food c
TEXT SIZE - +

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for international cooperation to address rising food prices in Asia. The FAO says the cost of some staples has reached an all-time high and that measures are needed to protect the poor and prevent prices from getting out of control.

United Nations data show the cost of food in February reached the highest ever recorded.

Wednesday in Bangkok, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said in Asia the retail price of rice, the major staple, rose in Bangladesh by 33 percent from last year and in China and Indonesia by 23 percent.

A woman waits in line to buy subsidized rice in Bangladesh.
A woman waits in line to buy subsidized rice in Bangladesh.

Representatives from 20 Asian countries, international organizations, the United States, and Japan gathered in Bangkok Wednesday to address rising food prices.

The two-day conference is the first of a series the FAO is organizing around the world to address food security.

Rising costs

The delegates heard that rice costs are likely to stabilize this year because the region’s major producers, Thailand and Vietnam, are having good harvests. But FAO officials warn that rising fuel prices could push costs up further.

Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO's representative for Asia and the Pacific, says that Asia’s poor, who spend up to 70 percent of their incomes on food, are the worst affected by inflation.  

"You will recall that combination of food price and economic crisis of 2008, 2009 pushed an additional over 100 million into chronic hunger," he says. "We are experiencing a potential risk of similar setback at moment due to recent high and volatile food prices."

Stockpiling

Food price increases in 2007 and 2008 led some countries in the region to stockpile food and temporarily ban grain exports. The price of rice quickly doubled.

The United States ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, Ertharin Cousin,says that crisis was caused almost entirely by export restrictions and panic buying, which governments must avoid.

"In the short term, countries can reduce the risks from food price spikes by increasing transparency and sharing information on stocks and production, abstaining from export bans and using quotas and taxes sparingly, avoiding panic buying and hoarding, reducing import taxes, and putting in place targeted safety nets for the most vulnerable," Cousin says.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan, and South Korea this year are establishing a strategic rice reserve for emergencies.

And the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation says it has doubled its food reserves since last year and plans to open a regional seed bank.

Reaction in Asia

Javed Hussain Mir, a regional director at the Asian Development Bank, says so far only Asian countries have responded aggressively to rising food prices.

"But, as we are increasingly experiencing with these prices, arresting domestic food inflation with lasting solutions requires that, more than ever, that the collective efforts of everyone involved in the local and international food supply chains are brought to bear on the process," he says.

To prevent price spikes in the long-term, the FAO’s Konuma says governments and multilateral organizations must increase investment in agriculture and food production, which, he points out, has been neglected.

Konuma says the proportion of development assistance spent on agriculture declined from 20 percent in the 1980s to five percent today, and that national budgets for rural development have followed a similar trend.  

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 266 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid