Dec 9, 2008

World - Close to 1 billion go hungry; food prices still high: UN

MILAN: High food prices helped to push another 40 million people into hunger this year, raising the total number of undernourished people in the
world to 963 million, the United Nations' food agency said on Tuesday.

"For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream," said Hafez Ghanem, assistant director-general of UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

"The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality," Ghanem said in a statement accompanying FAO's report "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008".

Prices of major cereals have fallen more than 50% from their peaks earlier this year but they remain high compared with previous years. Prices for seeds, fertilizers and other inputs more than doubled since 2006 preventing poor farmers from boosting their output, FAO said.

"If lower prices and the credit crunch associated with the economic crisis force farmers to plant less food, another round of dramatic food prices could be unleashed next year," Ghanem said.

Some 907 million of the world's hungry people live in developing countries, according to FAO's data for 2007. Nearly two-thirds of the world's hungry live in Asia, while in sub-Saharan Africa one person in three is chronically hungry.

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