UN Expert Urges Huge Investment In Small Farmers

Asenior United Nations food expert appealed June 20 for a massive investment in smallholder farming to end poverty and hunger.

In an interview before the G20 meeting of farm ministers, Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of the statistics division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said local poverty was the root cause of hunger, not a lack of food.

Schmidhuber’s view on the outlook for global hunger also appeared to be less harrowing than that presented by U.K. charity Oxfam last month, which said the world’s food system was bust as 925 million people go hungry every day.

“More investments in smallholder agriculture and the rural infrastructure are absolutely essential to end poverty and hunger,” Schmidhuber said in response to emailed questions.

“FAO has estimated that with about $50 billion a year the world would stand an excellent chance of shrugging off the scourge of hunger in the next 15 years.”

The main cause of global hunger is local poverty, Schmidhuber said.

“Hunger is NOT the manifestation of the world’s inability to produce enough food. This has never been the case in the last 40 years and is even less likely to be the case for the next 40 years.”

FOOD SYSTEM NOT “BUST”

Schmidhuber disagreed with Oxfam’s view that the world’s food system was broken.

“The world food system is not bust,” he said. “The world as a whole is not losing its ability to produce enough food for future populations.

“What is bust is the ability of hundreds of millions of smallholders to generate enough food and income to escape hunger and poverty.”

Schmidhuber said Oxfam’s recent statement that food prices could double in the next 20 years was at the upper limit of expectations.

The recently publishedOECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020estimates price increases in real terms of 20 per cent for cereals and 30 per cent for meats by 2020, compared to the average of 2001-10.

“Sure, this is the picture for the next 10 years only, not to 2030,” Schmidhuber said.

“But taking an even longer-term view, there are good reasons to assume that upwards pressure on real prices could even lessen, owing to a further deceleration of global population growth, and growing saturation levels for food demand.”

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