Japan, EU seek urgent action on food prices
Friday, 25 April 2008

Leaders of Japan and the European Union called for urgent action to address rising food prices, which they warned could worsen poverty and hurt the global economy, reports AFP.

Japan, which imports more than half of its food, has said it will raise the issue of spiralling food prices when it hosts the summit of the Group of Eight rich nations in July.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and top EU leaders including European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso voiced “strong concern” about the prices of food, oil and other commodities in a joint statement after a summit.

The high prices “could slow down the growth in the global economy and have negative effects on developed and developing nations,” said the statement, also signed by Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia, the current EU president.

The leaders “underlined the urgent need to address the issue, particularly in light of its acute impact on developing countries’ efforts to overcome poverty,” the joint statement said. The EU and Japan also pledged to work together to promote stability on world financial markets.

Food prices have risen rapidly since the end of 2007, spurred in part by growing appetites in emerging economies such as China and India and by the popularity of biofuels at a time of soaring oil prices. Another report from Strasbourg adds: The European Commission yesterday announced a further 117.25 million euros (185.5 million dollars) in food aid to the world’s most vulnerable to offset the impact of soaring prices, reports AFP.

“The rise in basic food prices is a worldwide humanitarian disaster in the making,” said EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “Ongoing humanitarian food programmes are under enormous pressure with less food available for people already on the brink of starvation,” he added.

His comments followed an announcement last month of the EU commission’s biggest ever food aid package, 160 million euros, which came with a warning that the swiftly rising prices could force it to increase the amount. “Millions more, who were just about coping before, now risk going hungry.

Addressing (the) food price issue is a global challenge requiring long-term solutions but the emergency is now. We have an obligation to act and act quickly,” Michel told the assembled MEPs. Of the latest humanitarian funding, almost half will be taken from the existing food aid budget run by the commission’s humanitarian aid department, while 60 million euros in “new money” has been requested. Earlier this month the European Commission unveiled an action plan to help combat a worrying drop in EU aid to developing countries and urged member nations to live up to their pledges.

On Friday, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France—which takes over the rotating EU presidency in July—pledged to double the country’s emergency food aid in 2008 to 60 million euros (100 million dollars).

With food prices rising, sparking protests in countries like Haiti and Egypt, the EU’s executive body lamented that aid levels provided by the world’s biggest donor had dropped last year for the first time since 2000.

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