Leaders from the FAO made statements on the increase of hunger ahead of meetings in Paris. From the Voice of America, reporter Joe DeCapua covered the statements.
Experts from the FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development open a two-day meeting in Paris Tuesday to discuss the problem. Joseph Schmidhuber, head of the FAO's Global Perspectives Unit, spoke from Rome about the growing number of people labeled as hungry or malnourished.
"We've seen first a stagnation in the number of under nourished people and then actually we saw quite an increase. And we expect a further increase due to the financial and economic crisis. The first increase was essentially an increase that reduced implicit incomes through higher food prices and the second one is an increase that will reduce explicit incomes and purchasing power through the financial and economic crisis," he says.
The Paris meeting will look for long-term solutions. "The meeting will focus on investing in agriculture and food security. What we sense now is an urgent need to step up investment in agriculture in order to avoid the situation as we had in the early 1980s," he says.
The economic crisis of the 1980s, triggered in part by a debt crisis, brought a sharp downturn in investment in agriculture. Schmidhuber says that resulted in "a reduction of production and stagnation in the fight against hunger."
Last June, in Rome, international donors held an emergency meeting in Rome on soaring food prices and widespread food shortages. Asked whether anything substantial has come from that meeting, he says, "What we've seen is actually that international prices went down considerably. There's no doubt about that." However, what did not happen in many countries was an equal decline in national prices. In fact, in some cases food prices actually rose.
"One of the problems we see as an organization is that we saw enormous pledges in 2008 in the meeting…but there was relatively little follow-up in terms of actual investment. So, we saw pledges to the tune of $26 billion and we saw…actual money coming forward to the tune of $2 billion."