GLOBAL numbers afflicted by acute hunger rose from 850 million to 925 million by the start of 2008 because of rising prices, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said today.
The number of people suffering from malnutrition, before the worst effects of global price rises, “rose just in 2007 by 75 million”, the director-general of the Rome-based agency, Jacques Diouf, , told an Italian parliament committee, according to ANSA news agency.
An FAO prices index showed global food price rises of 12 per cent in 2006, 24 per cent in 2007 and 50 per cent over the first eight months of 2008, Mr Diouf said – suggesting the number affected is likely to top one billion by the end of the year.
“Thirty billion dollars per year must be invested to double food production and eliminate hunger,” Mr Diouf said, calling the figure “modest” in comparison with the amount many countries spend on arms and agriculture.
An FAO summit vowed in June to halve global hunger by 2015 and take “urgent” action over the global food crisis, but only after going into overtime at the fractious gathering.
In a final declaration at the summit – which saw $US6.5 billion ($A8.19 billion) pledged, but which exposed strains notably over biofuels – world leaders also agreed to boost food production in poor countries.
The declaration restated similar conclusions from food summits in 1996 and 2002.
Mr Diouf said previously that “under the current trends, that objective would be obtained in 2150 instead of 2015”.
Rising food prices have pushed 100 million people below the poverty line, the World Bank has estimated, and have sparked protests and even riots in some parts of the world, while also threatening world economic growth.
Experts have blamed a number of factors such as oil prices, growing use of biofuels and increased consumption of high-calorie food, particularly meat, in emerging economies.