Bangla outlines global food bank proposal in leader's UN speech

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United Nations, Sep 27 (UNI) A global food bank that allows needy countries to borrow grains on preferential terms would help alleviate the devastating impact of the food crisis, the chief adviser of Bangladesh told the General Assembly.

Mr Fakhruddin Ahmed, who serves as head of his country's caretaker government, told delegates that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should examine the possibility of creating such a food bank to assist countries that have a short-term shortfall in production.

''Once they overcame the shortfall, these countries could return the quantum to the food bank,'' he said yesterday.

''We could also explore the possibility of determining special drawing rights for each country, using criteria such as population, level of poverty and annual variation in their level of food production.'' ''Such an arrangement would allow us to prevent hoarding and price gouging by speculators in anticipation of, and during, a food crisis, and we believe that a mechanism can be put in place to guard against any moral hazard issues that might arise.'' Mr Ahmed warned that the current food crisis is likely to deepen -- and return frequently in the years ahead -- unless the world undertakes an array of short-term and long-term measures.

He also detailed the impact of the crisis in Bangladesh, noting that the rise in basic food prices has been ''acutely felt'' though most cereals consumed were grown locally.

Domestic rice prices went nearly 60 per cent during the year through February 2008, against the backdrop of two devastating floods and a tropical cyclone that caused large-scale devastation of one of Bangla's key harvests, according to him.

''For a country like Bangladesh, where roughly 40 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and where poor households spend as much as 70 per cent of their income on food items, such a steep increase in food prices has had significant adverse effects on food security, poverty and human development.'' UNI XC SBA ucs0426

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