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UN chief calls for sharp hike in world farm output

by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) July 18, 2008
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for a sharp hike in world farm output, warning that high food and fuel prices threatened much of the progress made in reaching global poverty-reduction targets.

Addressing a day-long debate of the UN General Assembly on the global food and energy crisis, the secretary general warned: "the double jeopardy of high food and fuel prices threatens to undermine much of the progress made in achieving the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)."

And he noted that the effects of climate change, including increased exposure to drought, rising temperatures, more erratic rainfall and extreme weather events, were threatening water and agricultural systems, potentially triggering malnutrition and water shortages for millions of people.

"To reach the MDG on reducing poverty and hunger (by 2015), we need a Global Partnership for Food. Governments must be at the center, but we all have to work together," Ban said.

"We must act immediately to boost agricultural production this year," he added.

"We do this by providing urgently needed seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming planting cycles," especially for the world's 450 million small-scale farmers."

Ban said UN agencies were already doing so, but added: "with so many millions of people threatened by this crisis, all of us, including member states, need to do much more -- immediately."

He hailed the European Commission's proposal Friday to set a special facility worth a total of 1.5 billion dollars for a rapid response to the food crisis.

The secretary also outlined a broad strategy that would scale up food aid and other nutrition interventions, hike predictable financial support for food aid, exempt purchases of humanitarian relief food from export restrictions and set up a global reserve system for humanitarian food.

He said it was also high time "to reverse the dramatic and deplorable downward trend in agriculture's share in official development assistance (ODA) by rich nations. ODA has fallen from 18 percent 20 years ago to just around three percent today, he noted.

Ban also urged the eight leading industrialized countries to improve fair trade and the free flow of markets by cutting their farm subsidies.

He said investment in farming and rural development must be significantly boosted and global food commodity markets strengthened to meet the needs of all countries and people, particularly the poor.

Ban also addressed the need to reassess subsidies and tariff protection for biofuel production.

"It is true that biofuels will need to remain a part of the equation in our fight against climate change," he noted.

"But we also need to establish an international consensus and agreed policy guidelines on ways to balance the development of biofuels with fod production priorities."

France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, speaking on the behalf of the 27-member European Union, welcomed the UN chief's call for a Global Partnership for Food.

And he stressed the need to boost global food security through for greater coherence in trade, environmental, monetary, fiscal and legal policies.

Ripert said all stakeholders, international institutions, farm groups, enterprises, civil society, institutional investors and the banking sector, should be associated to this effort.

His Chinese counterpart Wang Guangya meanwhile rejected suggestions that "big developing countries" such as China and India were to blame for the world food prices rise because of their skyrocketing demand.

"The food issue is attributable to complicated and multifaceted factors," he said.

"Countries need to view these factors as interrelated and ... take comprehensive measures in terms of finance, trade, assistance the environment, intellectual property rights and technology transfer."

Wang urged developing countries to boost their food output capacity and rich nations to provide the necessary financial and technical support.

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Brazil agribusiness wants looser ties to China, India in WTO talks
Brasilia (AFP) July 16, 2008
Brazil's powerful agribusiness sector on Wednesday called for the country to step away from an alliance with China and India in WTO talks next week to concentrate on securing immediate farm trade deals.

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