Stephen Smith, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, today marked World Food Day by highlighting the need for the international community to tackle global food security.
The Rudd Government believes it is essential to tackle the impact of rising food prices and shortages by addressing the root causes of global food security.
World Food Day marks the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This year's theme focuses on the challenge of climate change and bioenergy.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said 'there are already 925 million people around the world who are malnourished and for the first time since 1973 the world is facing the combined impact of record oil and food prices.'
'One hundred million of the world's most poor and disadvantaged risk being driven deeper into poverty by the recent escalation in food prices.'
'It's clear that increasing food and energy costs are seriously adversely affecting the poor and disadvantaged in many of the world's developing countries. World Food Day seeks to promote awareness of these important issues,' Mr Smith said.
Already this financial year the Australian Government has provided more than $80 million to tackle global food security issues, including:
- $30 million to the emergency appeal of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP); and
- $50 million to a World Bank trust fund aimed at immediately stimulating agricultural supply in vulnerable countries.
The Rudd Government will also contribute an additional $3 million to a new World Food Program emergency operation to help tackle food shortages in North Korea due to poor harvests, flood damage and the sharp rise in fuel prices.
Australia's commitment will assist some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries cope with higher food prices by encouraging increased agricultural production and policy reform in areas where it is most needed.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, said the scale of the unfolding humanitarian crisis meant while urgent financial aid was required, it was not the long term solution.
'While aid dollars are crucial, we need long-term solutions to a global problem - we need to produce more food, while building agricultural capacity in developing countries,' Mr Burke said.
The Government is developing a multi-year food security initiative that will focus on investment in agricultural research through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), on helping countries address market specific failures and on developing social safety nets.
'Biofuels have a limited role to play in the food shortage. Other pressures are playing a bigger role, including climate change, the cost of farm inputs, subsistence farming and growing demand for protein in the diets of developing countries,' Mr Burke said.
'The Rudd Government is acting now to be part of the solution, by boosting research and development; helping to remove barriers to global trade; and driving productivity along the food production chain.'
Despite severe drought, Australia still exported more than $23 billion of food in 2006-07.
More information on World Food Day is available from the FAO website
Mr Smith's Office: Adam Siddique 0407
Mr Burke's Office: Ann-Marie Wilcock 0413 872 275
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