The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hopes the high-level conference on world food security to be held in Rome from June 3 to 5 could also mark the re-launching the fight against hunger and poverty.
Also one could see initiatives announced to boost agricultural production in developing countries, it believes.
AdvertisementIn a policy document prepared for the summit, it said the international community should take urgent, concrete actions to address the issues of hunger and malnutrition in the face of soaring food prices, scarce land and water resources, climate change, increased energy needs and population growth.
It said many agricultural commodity markets continued to be tight despite production increases and low stock levels were not likely to be replenished quickly.
It said the possibility of further sharp price hikes and continued volatility as a result of unforeseen events would remain there for a few seasons.
It said many countries were facing the dual challenge of sharp increases in food and fuel prices threatening macro-economic stability and overall growth.
Poor food buyers in the cities and non-food producers in rural areas who spent a large share of their income on food were the most adversely affected, it said.
The report lists 22 countries that are particularly vulnerable due to a combination of high levels of chronic hunger (more than 30 percent undernourishment) and being net importers of both food and fuel. Countries such as Eritrea, Niger, Comoros, Haiti and Liberia are particularly affected.
It said that increases in domestic prices even by moderate rates of 10 or 20 per cent could have immediate negative impacts on poor households that spent a large part of their income on food staples. Providing emergency assistance to the most poor and hungry as well as re-launching agriculture and revitalising rural communities were key elements to reducing hunger and ensuring an improved world food situation, the FAO said.
Protecting the most vulnerable would require targeted direct food distribution, subsidies and cash transfers as well as nutritional programmes, including school feeding, it said. Strengthening social protection was especially important for vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and the elderly.
The World Food Programme has called for $775 million to finance the emergency activities. The report called for urgently boosting local food production by distributing seed, fertiliser, animal feed and other inputs among small-scale farmers through vouchers or smart subsidies.
The organisation called for $1.7 billion to provide low-income food-deficit countries with seed, fertiliser and other inputs.
It said high food prices represented an opportunity for increased investments in agriculture by both the public and private sectors to stimulate production and productivity. It called for investment in areas such as agricultural research, extension and infrastructure.
The FAO said unilateral trade policy measures by countries to ensure domestic food availability could exacerbate price instability in world markets and affect food security in other countries. Production and trade policies on bio-fuels also needed to be re-examined in light of their possible effects on international food markets, it said.