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Minister Smith calls for radical action on hunger

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today called on governments to radically reappraise their priorities and fulfil the commitments they have made to fight hunger.

Minister Smith was addressing the World Food Summit in Rome. Heads of States, Prime Ministers and Agriculture Ministers from across the globe are meeting at the Summit to agree the actions required to respond to the current crisis on world food markets and the threat of climate change. Minister Smith stated that "Rising food prices have had a dramatic effect on food security". This is most evident in the developing world, where people who are already suffering from under-nourishment, and for whom food bills make up 60% - 80% of their income, are facing a heavy burden. More than half the world's population lives in low-income, food-deficit countries that are unable to produce or import enough food to feed their people. The current situation threatens the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

During 2008 international prices of all major food commodities reached their highest levels in nearly 50 years. The total cost of food imports for Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) was 24% higher in 2007 than in 2006, rising to $107 billion.

Noting that Ireland's development assistance (ODA) will reach the target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2012, Minister Smith stated "that a central part of the international response has to be support for sustainable agricultural production in Africa, and other food deficit regions". He said that agricultural production and nutrition must become major priorities for development aid programmes. Although rising food prices have caused hardship for some, they can offer the possibility of income generation for farmers, if individual country's agricultural sectors are able to respond."We must give them the help they need to do so. Partner governments must in turn ensure that they pursue supportive agricultural policies which promote sustainable pro-poor growth."

Minister Smith also drew attention to the challenge of climate change and how it is affecting food security. He stated "we need to produce food sustainably to meet growing population needs. However, climate change threatens our ability to do that by affecting production and ecosystems." Environmental issues must be integrated into agriculture systems to ensure sustainability and the multifunctional role of agriculture should be recognised and rewarded.

Minister Smith also referred to the Doha Development Round of World Trade negotiations that are currently underway. He said that food security must become an absolute imperative in national and international policy. "We must do this in a coherent way, extending not only to our national agricultural policies and aid programmes but also to international trade agreements. We should give ourselves the time and space to consider the potential interactions between the Doha Development Round and the current world food market situation".

5 June, 2008

Note for Editors:

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations was founded in 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the conditions of rural populations. Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security. FAO is one of the largest specialised agencies in the United Nations system and the lead agency for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) pay an annual subscription to support the work of FAO, which amounted to €1.5 million in 2008. In addition to the annual subscription DAFF also provides additional extra budgetary funding to support particular FAO activities.

Date Released: 05 June 2008