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Food prices may increase 30-35 pc in next 10 years: UN

UNEP has warned food prices may increase to a new level,forcing those living in poverty to spend 90 pct of their income on it.

Written by Agencies | New York | Published: February 18, 2009 10:49:24 am

A top UN agency has warned food prices may increase up to 30-35 per cent within the next ten years,forcing those living in extreme poverty to spend 90 per cent of their income on it,if major changes are not made in food production and processing system.

A new report,released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP),has noted that changing the ways in which food is produced,handled and disposed of across the globe – from farm to store and from fridge to landfill – can both feed the world’s rising population and help the environmental services.

“We need a Green Revolution in a Green Economy but one with a capital G,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“We need to deal with not only the way the world produces food but the way it is distributed,sold and consumed and we need a revolution that can boost yields by working with rather than against nature,” added Steiner.

He noted over half of the food produced today is lost,wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain.

“There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals,birds and fish on this planet,” said Steiner.

The report also underscores the fact that over one-third of the world’s cereal harvest is being used as animal feed and by 2050 the ratio will rise to 50 per cent. “Continuing to feed cereals to growing numbers of livestock will aggravate poverty and environmental degradation,” UNEP warned.

Among the key points in its plan,the report suggests that recycling food wastes and deploying new technologies,aimed at producing biofuels,to produce sugars from discards like straw and nutshells could be a key environment-friendly alternative to increased use of cereals for livestock.

The amount of unwanted fish currently discarded at sea – estimated at 30 million tons a year – could alone sustain more than a 50 per cent increase in fish farming,a rise needed to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels by 2050 without increasing pressure on marine environment.

The report highlights a number of other measures,including the reorganization of food market infrastructure to regulate prices,a micro-financing fund to boost small-scale farming,the removal of agricultural subsidies,managing and better harvesting extreme rainfall and adopting more diversified and ecologically-friendly farming systems.

Meanwhile,Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to environment ministers gathered in Nairobi to help promote a green economy to tackle climate change and wasteful resource consumption,as well as re-energize economies,creating opportunities for new and better livelihoods.

“Soaring food prices brought intense focus not just on the issues of agriculture and trade but on the inflationary role of biofuel production,” Ban said in a message to the weeklong meeting.

“Wildly fluctuating crude oil costs illustrated once again our dependence on the fossil fuels that are causing climate change,and the short-sighted economic vision that has precipitated the current financial turmoil is also bankrupting our resource base,” he stated.

During the Forum,UNEP and technology giant Microsoft signed an agreement to work together using information and communication technology (ICT) solutions to help address today’s environmental challenges.

“We view our partnership with Microsoft as key to delivering solutions on a scalable level to a community of more than 190 nations and the UN system as a whole,” said Steiner.

“Without equitable access to information and the capacity for developing countries to engage on an equal level in negotiating key agreements like the climate change treaty or the biodiversity convention,we will not make much progress,” he added.

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