The United Nations called Monday for a long-term policy on food grain production in order to avert famine amidst steeply-rising prices that threaten to undermine anti-poverty programmes. ( dpa )
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a gathering of Breton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and UN trade agency that the rapidly escalating crisis in food availability around the world has reached "emergency proportions."
At a meeting in Washington over the weekend, the food cost crisis was discussed by leaders of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and finance ministers of the world's richest countries. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that the crisis could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.
"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it's getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said.
He called for a "New Deal on global food policy" - a reference to US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal that pulled the US out of the 1929 Depression.
Officials from the World Bank and IMF met at UN headquarters in New York on Monday to discuss the world economy with the UN Economic and Social Council. Ban addressed the opening.
"The international community will also need to take urgent action and concerted action in order to avert the larger political and security implications of this growing crisis," Ban said. "The UN needs to examine ways to lead a process for the immediate and longer term responses to this global problem."
The UN has set the target of halving the number of poor, those living on less than 1 dollar a day, by 2015 under its programme known as the Millennium Development Goals.
The UN World Food Programme, which provides food aid around the world, said last month it planned to increase its operational cost from 500 million dollars a year to 700 million dollars in order to meet the rising food prices.
Zoellick's New Deal proposal called on the World Bank to nearly double its agricultural lending to sub-Saharan countries to 800 million dollars in the next year in order to help them increase crop productivity.