World Bank, IMF jointly to tackle global food crisis

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Washington, Apr 14: The two-day spring meeting of the World Bank and IMF came to a close on Saturday with the endorsement of ''New Deal'' to tackle the global food crisis caused by the rapid rise in prices of wheat, rice and corn, leading to an increase in overall food prices by 83 per cent in the last three years.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who presented the plan said help was needed for countries in which sharply higher food prices are causing hunger. Many grain prices have nearly doubled in the past year and the impact is particularly severe in impoverished countries like Haiti and Bangladesh Mr Zoellick said a 500 million dollar emergency feeding programme would be set up. ''Based on a rough analysis, we estimate that a doubling of food prices over the last three years could potentially push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty,'' he said. ''We have to put out money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths,'' He said. ''It's as stark as that.''

Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who led the Indian delegation, welcomed Zoellick's call for a ''New Deal for Global Food Policy'' to focus on hunger and malnutrition.

''It is becoming starker by the day that unless we act fast for a global consensus on the price spiral, the social unrest induced by food prices in several countries will conflagrate into a global contagion leaving no country-developed or otherwise-unscathed,'' he said.

He wanted the global community to collectively deliberate on ''immediate steps to reverse the unconscionable increases in the price of food which threatens to negate the benefits to the poor nations from aid, trade and debt relief.'' He said donor countries must increase funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations' Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF).

He also welcomed the shift in focus in the proposed New Deal from traditional food aid to a broader concept of food and nutritional assistance and on medium to long-term efforts to boost agricultural productivity in developing countries.

In Asia rice prices have risen by more than 75 per cent in less than three months and some rice exporting countries have placed restrictions on foreign sales.

Mr Zoellick called for more aid to provide food to needy people in poor countries and help for small farmers. He said the World Bank was working to provide money for seeds for planting in the new season.

He also urged wealthy donor countries to quickly fill the World Food Programme's estimated 500m dollars funding shortfall.


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