European agency launches food security initiative

London | Reuters — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development launched an initiative Nov. 28 to boost food security through private-sector investment to unlock the production potential of suppliers like Russia.

The lending institution, which has traditionally focused on emerging European economies, announced in Novembera it planned to expand operations to the Middle East and North Africa.

“It (the new program) brings together the bank’s existing and potential new regions by aiming to match the huge potential for exports in the former area with the massive import needs of the latter,” the EBRD said in a statement.

The Private Sector for Food Security Initiative aims include enhancing co-ordination between international financial institutions and development banks to address both food as well as water security issues.

“The involvement of the private sector is crucial to stimulating the supply side of food security as food production is first and foremost a private-sector activity,” EBRD said.

“With its predominant focus on private enterprise, the EBRD is particularly well placed to promote the priorities of the private sector in its interaction with relevant authorities in key supply countries,” the statement added.

The EBRD said Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan could supply half the world’s grain needs if they realized their production potential.

The bank said the initiative would be important in the Middle East and North Africa which include countries such as Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer.

In its traditional region of activity, the EBRD is the largest investor in the agribusiness sector, where it has a portfolio of financing of 2.9 billion euros and in which it provided funding of 850 million euros in 2010.

Investments are expected to exceed 900 million euros in 2011.

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