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Global hunger could become permanent disaster – Kofi Annan warns

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Kofi Annan

Mr Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) has warned that with the current global food crisis being experienced with one billion people hungry, the situation could make hunger a permanent disaster.

According to Mr Annan, who is also the Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), this would be endangering millions of lives as well as international cooperation.

Delivering the 27th McDougall Memorial Lecture on food security June 25, 2011, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner said, “If countries cannot come together successfully to deliver food security – this most basic of human needs – our hopes for wider international co-operation look doomed.”

He said the world has seen a worrying rise in “protectionism, unilateral export bans, land grabs and exclusive deals that meet the food needs of the rich but not the poor.”

Over the past few years there has been an ominous retreat from the idea of a common purpose based on shared values, he added.

Mr. Annan said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) can take the lead in increasing the transparency of global food stocks, and therefore dampening speculation and market volatility, by compiling more accurate and accessible information on the quantity and quality of these stocks.

According to the FAO, food prices will continue to rise over the next 10 years, threatening the food security of millions of people in developing and even developed countries.

World food output will have to rise 70% by 2050 as the planet’s population climbs to 9.2 billion from an estimated 6.9 billion in 2010, the organization said.

Meanwhile in a report on the crisis published by Renaissance Capital (RenCap) this year,  the food crisis in 2011 has to do with the rising cost of maize. According to the investment bank, in 2011/2012, it is the price of maize that is projected to surpass other cereal prices and hit new highs.

Maize makes up 37% of  sub-Sahara Africa’s (SSA’s) total cereal consumption, and maize consumption is even more important for countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. These countries are projected to be among the most affected in the region by the rise in global cereal prices, as will be SSA’s biggest importers of cereal, RenCap said.

The price of maize it says, doubled in the year to April 2011 to $319/tonne as stocks fell, which in turn put upward pressure on the wheat price to increase by 74% over the same period to $336/tonne. Significantly, the price of rice moved sideways in the year to April 2011.

In February 2011, World Bank President, Robert Zoellick told the Reuters news service that the world faces a broader trend of increasing food and commodity prices and more countries should wake up to the need to curb price volatility.

“We are going to be facing a broader trend of increasing commodity prices, including food commodity prices,” Zoellick told the news wire.

In response to the crisis, the World Bank Group on June 21, 2011 announced a new risk management product to provide up to an initial $4 billion in protection from volatile food prices for farmers, food producers, and consumers in developing countries.

This first-of-its-kind, the product will improve access to hedging instruments to shield consumers and producers of agricultural commodities from price volatility.  It will also protect buyers from price rises in food-related commodities such as wheat, sugar, cocoa, milk, live cattle, corn, soybean, and rice, the Bank says.


By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi & Ekow Quandzie

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