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Developing world leaders urge action on food

Developing world leaders said Sept. 23 that escalating food costs were exacting a heavy toll on the poor and called for global action to reverse the trend, which threatens to undermine economic growth.

The impact of higher global food prices was raised by leaders in speeches to the annual United Nations General Assembly gathering, where delegates are assessing how countries are faring in reaching UN goals to halve global poverty by 2015.

“The current food crisis is a heavy burden and poses many new challenges,” Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana said.

He blamed the rise in food prices on subsidies for farmers in rich industrial nations that discourage farm production in developing countries.

“We are in a very difficult situation and are dependent on the global marketplace to feed our people because our agricultural output is so low,” he said. “With commodity prices soaring we cannot afford the basic food items needed to survive.”

Ravalomanana said African countries, in particular, would be unable to break the cycle of poverty if food prices remained high.

While prices of some staples have declined by around eight per cent from their peaks in June, they are still 44 per cent above 2006 levels. The World Bank has warned that 100 million more people could be pushed deeper into poverty by soaring food and fuel prices, which have pushed up fertilizer costs.

U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the 192 member states that in a single year, staple foods that feed half of the world more than doubled in price.

He urged rich donor nations to fulfil promises of aid to poor countries struggling to cope with higher prices.

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