World leaders open a three-day summit on the global food crisis in Italy today, with human rights activists warning the world’s poor need action, not words. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation – FAO – meeting will attempt to tackle the issues that are pushing some 100 million people into hunger and have caused violent riots.
FAO expert Abby Abbassian said some prices are at their highest for 30 years: “From the import point of view a lot of countries have to import more or less what they did in the past, they had to because it’s the basic food.”
“But that means they must have spent at least twice as much as in the previous year because prices have gone up by at least 100 per cent.”
Discussions, however, are in danger of being overshadowed by the presence of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe – whose appearance at a food shortage conference has been called obscene by Britain and Australia – and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His planned appearence, just days after he repeated his belief Israel would soon disappear, has raised hackles around the world.
Hunger campaigners are also targeting the recent rise in biofuels as one of the main culprits for the food price hikes.
They are pushing for a ban on arable land being switched from food farming to crops which can be used for energy.