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A Ray of Hope: G8 to Start Tackling Global Food Crisis

by Asinus Asinum Fricat Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:11:44 AM EST

On the Project Concern site, there's this message:

Here is a challenge to consider: tonight - for just one night - go without dinner; go to bed hungry. This act of conviction serves to remind each of us of the global emergency that is currently being described by the World Food Program as the "silent tsunami."

Imagine having to go without food for days on end as roughly a billion people do on a regular basis. Imagine having to put your kids to sleep at night hungry. How did we get to this point and what did the various governments in the world do to alleviate the hunger and the suffering? Not much, as most States still spend a large portion of their GDP, doggedly, in defense, shoring up armies and armament as if there's no tomorrow, still drawing invisible battle lines on the earth, water and space.

However, there is movement at the station, to paraphrase Banjo Paterson.

"The Group of Eight countries should shift a greater proportion of their overseas development assistance to agriculture in order to tackle the current food crisis"
the most senior United Nations' agriculture official said on Friday. Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, said that as chair of the G8, Japan should take the initiative in reversing the fall in the proportion of ODA allocated to agriculture. Japan responded by:

Japan to sell rice stockpile to help global shortages:

The United States says it will consider letting Japan on-sell imported American rice to other countries, to curb rising prices and meet supply shortages after Cyclone Nagis destroyed rice production in Burma (under World Trade Organization rules, Japan can't export its US imported rice without US permission) Japan currently has 1.5 million tonnes of imported rice in storage. Nearly 900,000 tonnes of it was purchased from the US. The good news is that rice futures for July delivery have tumbled more than five per cent on Chicago's Board of Trade as a result of the unofficial announcement. Furthermore Tokyo has placed the global food crisis on the agenda of the G8 summit in July, making it then first time in nearly thirty years that the richest countries discuss food shortages and concomitant prices. About effing time!

Mr Diouf said not only had overall ODA been declining, but

"more seriously the share of agriculture [aid] in ODA has gone from 17 per cent in 1980 to 3 per cent in 2005."
In particular, efforts were needed to support agriculture in Africa, he added.

"With just 4 per cent of arable land in sub-Saharan Africa irrigated, against 38 per cent in Asia, there is a need to invest in irrigation in Africa to solve the problem of food. Africa also needs urgent investment in roads and food storage, as up to 60 per cent of food production is lost due to a lack of storage facilities. Global agriculture production has been affected by natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts and floods at a time when cereal stocks were at their lowest in 30 years,"
Mr Diouf said.

The staple for half the world reached a record last month as exporters (including Vietnam and India) cut sales to guarantee local supplies, a stop-gap in case food riots reoccur, as they did in Haiti and Egypt a few weeks ago.  

Checking the UBS site for food prices, I noted this ray of hope:

"The wheels are in motion for lower food prices," John Reeve, associate director for agricultural commodities at UBS AG, said today in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Farm output costs were below selling prices and harvests were due, he said.

Still we have a long way to go if we're going to be able to feed six billions plus. I'm cautiously optimistic today, seeing that there are some kind of action being taken as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced he was forming a UN task force on the food crisis, bringing together heads of UN agencies to provide a coordinated response on the issue. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ordered a top level task force to take on the global crisis caused by rising food prices and urged key producer nations to end export bans. The UN chief said the immediate priority must be to "feed the hungry" and called for urgent funding for the World Food Program.

This saves me from cluttering-up the Recent Diaries section!

New York Times: World's Poor Pay Price as Crop Research Is Cut

The budgets of institutions that delivered the world from famine in the 1970s, including the rice institute, have stagnated or fallen, even as the problems they were trying to solve became harder.

 at the International Rice Research Institute, greenhouses have peeling paint and holes in their screens and walls. Hallways are dotted with empty offices. In the 1980s, the institute employed five entomologists, or insect experts, overseeing a staff of 200. Now it has one entomologist with a staff of eight.

Similar troubles plague other centers in Asia, Africa and Latin America that work on crop productivity in poor countries. Agricultural experts have complained about the flagging efforts for years and warned of the risks.

"Nobody was listening," said Thomas Lumpkin, director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

This is stunning - if true:

In Africa, where yields have remained stagnant since the 1960s, efforts to bolster them have been hampered by cuts not only in research but also in programs like fertilizer distribution.

Not sure I believe it.  Pretty much the Green Revolution© increased yields (total food production per acre/hectare) across the board.  If the meaning is food/population then I can see it.  

Of course dipstick doesn't bother to state what metric is being used.  I expect nothing less of the NYT.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 02:50:22 PM EST
Given that the diary points to 60% losses on production due to logistical reasons, gross productivity could have increased by a lot - and been lost to parallel increases in logistical losses.

Or there are just too many civil wars in Africa.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:02:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good catch.

T. S. Payne at the FAO

Losses of wheat due to inadequate storage and other post-harvest factors at the farm, village and commercial levels of up to 4 percent have been observed (McFarlane, 1989; Abdullahi and Haile, 1991), though losses in excess of 40 percent for other cereals are not uncommon (NRC, 1996).

[References are to the bibliography at the end of the quoted article.]

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 01:56:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yields of what have remained stagnant ??

If it's cereals, that's possibly cos countries like ethiopia and Egypt have re-directed production from basic food to cash crops like strawberries and cotton for export.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 09:37:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The article doesn't state what crop(s) or cultivar(s) the writers are using to underlie their claim.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 11:59:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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