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Price tag of reversing food crisis -

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Price tag of reversing food crisis

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 June , 2008 12:26:00

Reporter: Emily Bourke

ELEANOR HALL: As the United Nations' food summit gets underway in Rome today, world leaders have
been warned about the true scale of the food crisis and what it will cost to turn it around.

Developing countries are being told to revolutionise their agriculture sectors and spend 10 times
more than they do now to address the problem.

The UN's leading food official says food production must double by the year 2050 and that means
tens of billions of dollars worth of investment.

Emily Bourke has our report.

EMILY BOURKE: As delegates from more than 40 countries gather in the Italian capital, the head of
the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation Jacques Diouf has put a price tag on what it will cost
to ease the food crisis.

JACQUES DIOUF: In the short-term we indicated a need for $755-million for food aid. We also
indicated $1.7-billion to assist poor countries farmers get access to seeds, to fertilisers and
animal feed. When we want to address the whole problem of how to double food production by the year
2050 to feed a world population of 6-billion that will reach 9-billion, then we are talking of
investment in the magnitude of $30 to $50-billion a year.

EMILY BOURKE: That's 10 times what the world's poorest countries are currently spending on farming
infrastructure.

JACQUES DIOUF: If the world is serious at spending $1,204-billion a year in armament, I think they
would be serious about ensuring that 852-million person who are hungry, get access to food and that
will produce enough food not to have the type of situation we have seen resulted.

EMILY BOURKE: It's hoped the UN's three-day summit in Rome will provide a historic chance to
relaunch the fight against hunger and poverty and boost agricultural production in developing
countries

But activist organisations and NGOs have also gathered in Rome to hold their own parallel
conference, called Terra Preta or "Dark Soil". They are voicing their concerns about the production
of biofuels and the strain on the environment.

ACTIVIST: We don't want to leave it just to them to decide now how to get out of this mess. So it's
very important that the people who are most affected by the food crisis and by the climate change
have a say in how it's affecting them and how they think it should be solved.

ACTIVIST 2: We want to demonstrate how biofuels can directly threaten the lives of over 300 million
people across the world, especially the lives of small farmers and small agricultural production.

EMILY BOURKE: But Lorenzo Cotula from the International Institute for Environment and Development
says there's evidence that biofuel production is benefiting many farming communities.

LORENZO COTULA: What we found is a mixed picture. It much depends on the type of biofuel crop, on
their cropping system, on the business model used for producing biofuels and also very importantly
on the extent to which local land rights are protected by the law and this is the other side of the
story is that while in some cases, biofuels are resulting in people losing out, in some cases there
are very good opportunity for people in rural areas who have been impoverished by decades of lack
of attention really in agriculture and rural areas particularly in poorer countries.

EMILY BOURKE: But with warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe, the aid organisation Oxfam is
appealing for a global action plan that covers emergency food rations, investment in farming and
international trade reform.

Andrew Hewitt is from Oxfam Australia.

ANDREW HEWITT: Get the food aid system properly financed and working in the right way so that it
helps boost agricultural production but reverse long-term trends in a lack of investment in
agriculture.

Development assistance to agriculture has been halved between 1980 and 2005. There has been some
small signs of reversing that trend but there is a lack of investment. There is a lack of
investment by developing country government and we have a world trading system which is directed
biased against the poor so this does give us an opportunity - an opportunity to at last get things
right.

ELEANOR HALL: Oxfam Australia's Andrew Hewett ending Emily Bourke's report.