Hanoi, Vietnam, 09 Mar 2012 -- The relationship between rising and volatile food prices, food insecurity and hunger, and diminishing natural resources will be the focus of agriculture ministers, senior officials and civil society representatives from 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region at a major conference in Hanoi next week organized by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The world food price index re-bounded with one percent last month, its first increase in six months. FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are predicting that world prices for staple commodities will surge to punishing levels by the end of the decade: rice prices are forecast to rise by 40 percent; maize by 48 percent, wheat by 27 percent and oilseeds by 36 percent.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to 578 million hungry and undernourished people, or 62 percent of the world’s total of 925 million
With populations increasing, and little arable land left in Asia to expand farming, and with the price of crude oil surging, the impacts on hunger, malnutrition and poverty could be severe. The effects of climate change further heighten the potential dangers to food security, social and political stability.
Sustainable intensification in agricultural production and promoting access to food by the poor are twin strategies that can address these problems.
”We must produce more food in Asia-Pacific for an ever-increasing population,’’ says FAO’s regional chief Hiroyuki Konuma. “Greater supply and availability of nutritious and safe foods at affordable prices combined with nutrition awareness and education will increase food security.”
“Farmers must unite and strengthen their bargaining power – supported by capacity development, better access to markets and other value chain technologies.”
Governments and international partners, however, have been reducing support and investment devoted to agriculture.
“Increasing investments in agriculture and promoting household food security is the way to overcome hunger and the instabilities its causes,’’ Konuma said. Advocating for increased investment in agriculture and food security is a focus of the conference.
The Asia-Pacific region hosts more than 60 percent of world population, and is the region where most small farmers, fisher folk, landless and other rural folks live. The FAO conference is providing opportunities to civil society, farmers’ organizations, social movements and the private sector to interact with governments as strategic partners for solidarity in the fight against hunger.
The conference is held from Monday 12 March to Friday 16 March at the Hanoi Melia Hotel.
A joint press conference by the Vietnamese minister for agriculture and rural development, Cao Duc Phat, and the FAO director-general, Graziano da Silva, will be held at the Hanoi Melia Hotel on Thursday 15 March at 12:00 hours.