Hunger-Reduction Plan Is Failing

U.N. Agency Presents Annual Report

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ROME, SEPT. 12, 2001 ( A plan to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 20 million every year has fallen short of expectations, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said.

The ranks of the hungry have been reduced only by 8 million annually, since the plan arose five years ago, FAO´s vice director Hartwig de Haen told reporters as he presented the agency´s annual report.

He added that half of all emergency food situations in the world are caused by man, often by wars.

His report came in advance of the FAO´s summit Nov. 5-9 that will gather some 100 heads of state and government, as well as delegations from 185 countries.

De Haen expressed great concern because the increase in the world´s agricultural production last year was the lowest since 1993. The increase reported was 1.2%, as compared to 2.7% in 1999.

This slow growth applies both to industrialized as well as developing countries, with the exception of Latin America and the Caribbean, and some countries of East Asia and the Pacific. The situation is critical in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, de Haen said.

This limited growth is causing a reduction in the world food reserves, especially in China and India. What is more, there are 33 countries affected by the food crisis, which threatens 60 million people. The majority of these are in sub-Saharan Africa, and many suffer conflicts, de Haen emphasized.

Contributing to emergency food situations is the present state of international trade, burdened by excessive protectionism and subsidies on the part of rich countries, he said. These hurt the poor nations, which import and export agricultural products, he added.

The FAO report notes that plant parasites and animal diseases have increased enormously in recent years.

The Vatican has a permanent observer at the FAO, currently Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, the apostolic nuncio.

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