Wednesday, 9 July 2008

OPINION: Shortages are not the problem

Shortages are not the problem
By Madeleine K. Albright and John D. Podesta
Published: July 9, 2008

There was a glimmer of good news in the global food price crisis when Japan announced it would release a portion of its imported rice stockpile and the high level UN Food and Agriculture Organization secured financial commitments for short-term food aid and increased research and development into new seeds and the distribution of fertilizer to small farmers.
Nonetheless, the dismal state of affairs in the global food situation underscores the need for U.S. leadership in addressing a world agricultural system that is facing new challenges and a painful transition.
The United States can lead the way in achieving lasting global food security with a renewed commitment to long-term investment in agricultural development in the world's poorest nations. Japan, as the host nation of the Group of 8 summit meeting, and with U.S. concurrence, must go further than its earlier announcements on rice and release up to 1 million tons of its current stockpile.
Key rice producers around the world, including India, Pakistan and Vietnam, should follow suit and fulfill their recent promises to tap their own surpluses to feed the global market.
In the last three years, food prices worldwide have risen 83 percent, sowing the seeds of increased malnutrition, hunger and political instability. Since 2003, the price of rice has been on a steady climb upward and has risen 141 percent in the last year alone. For much of the world, rice is a key component of the daily diet. Three billion people rely on rice for a third of their calories each day.

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