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GUARDIAN-UK\Poor go hungry while rich fill their tanks

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  • Jym Dyer
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/apr/11/worldbank.fooddrinks1 Poor go hungry while rich fill their tanks · IMF meeting World Bank condemns dash to
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 10, 2008
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      Poor go hungry while rich fill their tanks
      · IMF meeting World Bank condemns dash to biofuels
      · Call for extra £250m in aid to grow more food

      Larry Elliott and Heather Stewart
      The Guardian | Friday 11-Apr-2008

      Rocketing global food prices are causing acute problems of
      hunger and malnutrition in poor countries and have put back the
      fight against poverty by seven years, the World Bank said

      Robert Zoellick, the Bank's president, called on rich countries
      to commit an extra $500m (£250m) immediately to the World Food
      Programme, and sign up to what he called a "New Deal for global
      food policy".

      Zoellick said: "In the US and Europe over the last year we have
      been focusing on the prices of gasoline at the pumps. While many
      worry about filling their gas tanks, many others around the
      world are struggling to fill their stomachs. And it's getting
      more and more difficult every day."

      He said the price of wheat had risen by 120% in the past year,
      more than doubling the cost of a loaf of bread. Rice prices were
      up by 75% in just two months. On average, the Bank calculates
      that food prices have risen by 83% in the past three years.

      "In Bangladesh a 2kg bag of rice now consumes almost half of the
      daily income of a poor family. With little margin for survival,
      rising prices too often means fewer meals," he said. Poor people
      in Yemen were now spending more than a quarter of their income
      on bread. "This is not just about meals forgone today, or about
      increasing social unrest, it is about lost learning potential
      for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and
      physical growth. Even more, we estimate that the effect of this
      food crisis on poverty reduction worldwide is in the order of
      seven lost years."

      The Bank's analysis chimes with research from the International
      Monetary Fund which shows that Africa will be the hardest hit
      continent from rising food prices. More than 20 African
      countries will see their trade balance worsen by more than
      1% of GDP through having to pay more for food.

      Gordon Brown, the prime minister, has written to his
      Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, who is chairman of the
      G8 industrialised countries, calling for a "fully-co-ordinated
      response" to the food crisis.

      Zoellick welcomed Brown's initiative, and said this weekend's
      meetings of the World Bank and the IMF had to do more than
      simply identify the scale of the crisis.

      "This is about recognising a growing emergency, acting and
      seizing opportunity too. The world can do this. We can do this,"
      he said. "We cannot be satisfied with studies, and papers, and
      talk." As well as the $500m contribution to the World Food
      Programme, there should be an expansion in safety-net programmes
      for poor communities. Zoellick also called for a boost to
      long-term financial support to aid production. "We must make
      agriculture a priority."

      The Bank plans to double its loans to agriculture projects in
      developing countries in 2008, to $800m.

      Riots have broken out in several countries, including Mexico
      and India, as a response to the rapid rise in the cost of basic
      foodstuffs over the past 12 months. A number of governments have
      imposed export bans on commodities, to try to bring prices under
      control. Zoellick warned against such protectionist responses.

      He was also critical of the dash to grow crops for biofuels.
      The US and EU have encouraged wider use of such fuels to try to
      tackle climate change and provide an alternative to oil, but the
      policy has sometimes diverted agricultural land away from food
      and exacerbated price rises.

      Zoellick criticised the subsidies and import tariffs used to
      promote wider use of the fuels.

      Liz Stuart, spokeswoman for Oxfam, said: "Europe and the US
      must stop adding fuel to fire by increasing crop production
      biofuels. These have dubious environment benefits, and by
      driving up prices, are crippling the lives of the poor."
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