Food Crisis Looms, UN Agencies Urge Action to Avoid 'Catastrophe'

A 'catastrophe affecting tens of millions' and repeat of the 2007-2008 world food crisis must be prevented with urgent action, UN agencies stated on Tuesday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP) issued the call for urgent action to address international food prices.

To do this, they say:

"Two interconnected problems must be tackled: the immediate issue of some high food prices, which can impact heavily on food import-dependent countries and on the poorest people; and the long-term issue of how we produce, trade and consume food in an age of increasing population, demand and climate change"

They add that safety nets, such as nutritional support to mothers and children and school meals, "that are affordable, predictable and transparent are an absolute must if we are to safeguard against recurring price shocks and crises."

The "high food prices are a symptom," they say, of an ineffective system. Lacking resiliency, it is impacted by climate that has wreaked havoc on crops through drought and floods; being highly centralized, where only a "handful of nations are large producers of staple food commodities," leaves millions at risk. In addition, food price spikes have been the result of "increased diversion of food stock for non-food purposes and increased financial speculation are among the various drivers of increased price levels and volatility. "

If changes aren't enacted swiftly, they say, it will "inevitably mean that the world's poorest and most vulnerable pay the highest price."

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