FAO eyes long-term plan for food crisis
BY TARO KARASAKI, STAFF WRITER
Japan should take the lead in enhancing food production in developing countries, instead of simply extending emergency relief to alleviate the global food shortage, the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Friday.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told a news conference in Tokyo that he hopes Japan, as chair of the Group of Eight summit in July and the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development later this month in Yokohama, will push for long-term solutions to the food crisis.
Diouf was in Tokyo for three days from Wednesday to exchange views with Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
The FAO is seeking $1.7 billion (178 billion yen) from donor countries to enhance agriculture, Diouf said, adding that he hopes Japan will urge other industrialized countries to contribute more.
"In addition to assistance to face the present crisis..., there is a need to focus on food production," he said. "We hope to reverse the current trend" of declining assistance for agriculture.
Diouf conveyed a similar message when he met with Fukuda on Thursday. He said that he and Fukuda agreed on the need to address the issue of food production, and that Tokyo should take the initiative.
Diouf said aside from an overall decline in official development assistance from industrialized countries such as Japan, the share of assistance for agriculture production has dropped from 17 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 2005.
He said priority should be given on devoting resources to promoting irrigation, improving storage facilities, as well as buying seeds and fertilizers, to prevent a future food crisis.
While stopping short of openly criticizing the diversion of crops from human consumption use to production of biofuels, Diouf identified the trend as a factor behind the food shortage, along with unusual weather patterns caused by climate change, increasing demand from fast-growing economies, such as China and India, and export restrictions by crop-producing countries.
He said those matters will be discussed extensively at a high-level international conference on food security that the FAO will host in Rome in early June. Fukuda is considering attending the event.
Japan has said the food crisis will be a key issue at the G-8 summit at Lake Toyako, Hokkaido, and is planning to offer more than $100 million in emergency aid ahead of the summit to alleviate the food crisis.
According to the FAO, more than 35 countries face food crises stemming largely from rising prices of grains. The food shortages have led to bloody riots and demonstrations in many developing countries.(IHT/Asahi: May 17,2008)