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Monday, July 07, 2008

World Bank chief urges G8 to boost food aid

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 21:36:00 07/07/2008

TOYAKO -- World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Monday urged the Group of Eight powers to boost food aid for poor nations and tear down trade barriers that make it hard to buy emergency shipments.

"How we respond to this double jeopardy of soaring fuel and food prices is a test of the global system's commitment to help the most vulnerable. And it's a test that we cannot afford to fail," he said on the sidelines of the G8 summit.

Zoellick urged the rich nations' club to provide "safety net support" for the most needy, to boost support for food assistance provided by the UN World Food Program and to provide seeds and fertilizers to poor farmers.

The soaring price of food and fuel is top of the agenda at the summit of leaders from G8 nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- in this mountain resort in northern Japan.

Zoellick called for an end to export bans and restrictions that he said had contributed to higher food prices.

"These walls are leading to a breakdown in the international agricultural system. They make it hard to acquire and ship food to the most needy, even when funds are available," he said.

Food purchases for humanitarian purposes should be exempt from export restrictions and taxes, he said.

"This is not the case now and it's an outrage," he said. "These beggar thy neighbor policies are placing lives and countries at risk."

While there are hopes that food supplies would rise in response to increasing prices, food costs were likely to remain high until at least 2012, Zoellick said.

"Food stocks are relatively low in the world. Unfortunately we don't see great relief."

The higher cost of fuel and food has led to protests worldwide, from tens of thousands of truck drivers striking in Spain and Portugal, to street rallies in Asia and riots in Egypt and Haiti.

Zoellick said world powers should consider setting up a system of food reserves much like emergency oil stockpiles, something that Japanese press reports have said the G8 may agree to do.