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FAO says soaring cereal prices threaten peace and security PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 April 2008

HTML clipboardROME (AFP) - Soaring cereal prices are a growing threat to world peace and security and to the human rights of developing countries facing food crises, the head of the UN food agency warned Friday.

"I'm surprised I have not been summoned to the UN Security Council, since many problems discussed there do not have the same consequences for peace and security in the world and the human rights of people who need to be fed," Jacques Diouf told a news conference in Rome.

At least five people have died in violent protests against high food and fuel prices in Haiti's capital, while similar disturbances have rocked Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries in the past month.

In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops have been deployed to avoid the seizure of food from fields and warehouses. Noting growing unease over supplies across in the developing world, Diouf said Friday that new funding of between 1.2 billion and 1.7 billion dollars (1.1 billion euros) is needed to help developing countries deal with the crises.

Thirty-seven countries currently face food crises, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation said in its latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report.

"In October already we made statements to different media warning that there will be food riots because we had all the signals pointing to that," Diouf said, calling for high-level representation at a world summit on food security that FAO is to host in Rome June 3-5. "To be frank I think we've already lost a lot of time," said the Senegalese FAO chief.

"Ahead of the planting season from March to July we hoped for huge programmes. Unfortunately it didn't happen," he said, adding: "We believe there is a need for massive transfers of seeds." While in New Delhi on Wednesday, Diouf said: "In the face of food riots around the world like in Africa and Haiti, we really have an emergency," noting that food stocks are at their lowest since 1980.

Cereal prices have risen as a result of steady demand, supply shortages and new export restrictions but supplies could improve with an expected increase in production of 1.6 percent to a record 2.16 billion tonnes, the FAO report said. Diouf said seed prices have risen 36 percent for maize and 72 percent for wheat, while fertiliser has gone up 59 percent and feed 62 percent.

In a complex system that varies according to different countries' political economies, factors behind the soaring prices include global warming, rising demand for biofuel, rising meat consumption and speculation on commodity futures, Diouf said.

Jose Sumpsi, Diouf's assistant for technical cooperation, told reporters: "The markets are not working well. A few operators are controlling everything, raising the prices of inputs." He said not only the global market but regional, national and local market systems needed reforms.

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