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G8 Must Press For Action On Food Crisis - UK's PM

G8 must press for action on food crisis - PM

Gordon Brown has called upon the G8 to press international institutions such as the United Nations to take action on a growing crisis in global food prices.

In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Mr Brown asked his counterpart to push for a "fully coordinated response" from the international community to rising food prices and its effects, particularly on the world's poorest people. Japan currently holds the G8 presidency and will host the main G8 summit in Hokkaido in July.

The Prime Minister suggested the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund work together on short-term action and a medium-term response around the areas of trade, production, technology, financial initiatives and food aid. He also said more should be done to link food issues with climate change and "extreme weather conditions".

The PM said:

"Rising food prices threaten to roll back progress we have made in recent years on development. For the first time in decades, the number of people facing hunger is growing.

"The international community needs a fully co-ordinated response...We need both short-term action to deal with immediate hardship, and a medium term response, which will provide a framework for tackling the opportunities and challenges."

***

PRIME MINISTERS LETTER

Letter To PM Yasuo Fukuda Of Japan On Rising Food Prices

Dear Prime Minister

Rising food prices threaten to roll back progress we have made in recent years on development. For the first time in decades, the number of people facing hunger is growing. Food prices have risen sharply leading to food riots in several countries.

Increased wealth and growing populations in developing countries contribute to steadily increasing global demand for grains, for food and animal feed, aggravated by rapidly increasing biofuel production.

Meanwhile, recent crop failures in major producing countries are reminders of the expected consequences of climate change, as the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increase in years to come. And the World Food Programme has highlighted that the increase in food prices will accentuate the food needs for the world's poorest people.

The international community needs a fully co-ordinated response. I would like to propose that you, as Chair of the G8, ask the World Bank, the IMF and the UN to urgently work together to lead the development of an international strategy to address all the elements of this crisis.

We need both short-term action to deal with immediate hardship, and a medium term response, which will provide a framework for tackling the opportunities and challenges. The responses might include:

* Trade: We should surely redouble our efforts for a WTO trade deal that provides greater poor country access to developed country markets and cuts distortionary subsidies in rich countries. Effective market incentives should lead to a supply response that will substantially mitigate the prospective gap between world cereal supply and demand in the longer term, and increase the incomes of some rural populations substantially. However, in the short-term net food-importing developing countries may need support to cope with higher prices as a result of liberalisation and the Marrakesh Mechanism should be ready to respond.

* Improving developing country agricultural production: Rising food prices provide an opportunity as well as a challenge for poor countries - with three out of four poor people in the world living in rural areas and dependent on agriculture. We must help smallholders address problems of limited and insecure landholdings, lack of access to inputs and markets, poor rural infrastructure and inadequate market information. A large aid for trade package will be crucial.

* Technology and research: Continuing international support for agricultural research will be crucial, along with reform of the international research system to achieve even greater impact on poverty and hunger. We need to undertake research to explore technological solutions to improve the security and consistency of supply. We must take the initiative to further develop higher-yielding and climate resilient varieties of crop.

* Biofuels: There is growing consensus that we need urgently to examine the impact on food prices of different kinds and production methods of biofuels, and ensure that their use is responsible and sustainable.

* Short-term World Bank and IMF support: Net food importing countries suffering from balance of payments difficulties as a result of higher global food prices should be given rapid access to IMF support under established mechanisms. We should consider the role of market-based risk management instruments, including derivatives, in combating food price volatility.

* Social safety nets for the poorest: We may need to increase, at least in the short-term, the scale of our support for humanitarian programmes, as food aid becomes more expensive. This must be accompanied by continuing emphasis to ensure we avoid creating dependency on food aid. We need to pay attention to the support we are providing for the very poor, particularly focusing on early child nutrition.

* Linking food and climate action: We must urgently and fully explore the impact of climate change on the livelihoods and vulnerability of the poor, who are likely to be most greatly affected by climatic changes. We should give priority to helping affected countries understand and adapt to the challenges they are going to face.

ENDS

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