INTERVIEW-Food security at risk without policy coordination-US

from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 27 May 2010 View Original
* World still in jeopardy of another food crisis

* U.S. moving ahead with implementation of L'Aquila plan

* U.S. seeking cooperation with EU and other donors

By Bate Felix

BRUSSELS, May 27 (Reuters) - A top U.S. official said on Thursday global food prices could soar again if countries don't cooperate to increase food production especially in developing countries.

Ertharin Cousin, U.S. ambassador to U.N. food agencies in Rome, said factors such as continued use of land for biofuels, and food scarcity, which led to a spike in global food prices and sparked riots in several countries in 2008, are still present.

"I think what has changed is the that we don't have the price spikes that resulted in the challenges, but the factors that created the price spikes are still there ... we are in jeopardy of another crisis," Cousin said in an interview in Brussels.

Cousin, who was in Brussels to speak about transatlantic cooperation on food security, said it was necessary for the United States, the European Union and other donors to work together on how to coordinate plans to increase food productivity in poor regions.

The United States last week launched a $3.5 billion global anti-hunger plan in 20 countries in which targeted projects would expand local production.

The new strategy, dubbed "feed the future", will initially focus on 12 African states and 4 each from Asia and Latin America; including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti and Honduras.

Cousin said the plan was not so much a policy shift by the U.S. -- which has until now tackled the food crisis by shipping surplus U.S. grains to needy areas -- but the implementation of an agreement reached by G8 world leaders at the L'Aquila summit in Italy in July 2009.

At that summit, nations pledged $22 billion over three years to combat chronic hunger around the world with nearly one billion people suffering from food shortages. The figure has climbed when food prices soared in 2008.

Cousin said the new U.S. approach would revolve around supporting plans developed and led by the countries themselves, some of which have started in Rwanda and Bangladesh.

The U.S. and other donors would align their investments and technical know-how to enable the countries develop sustainable agriculture and food security policies as agreed by G8 leaders, she said.

"These plans are country-led ... We are not making the decisions from the United States about what is best for any particular country," she said. (Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Amanda Cooper)

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