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Winners and losers in the food crisis

Jeff Tyler May 29, 2008

Winners and losers in the food crisis

Jeff Tyler May 29, 2008


Kai Ryssdal: World Bank President Robert Zoellick said today the bank’s going to be adding more than a billion dollars to its food and agriculture programs.

That news dovetails nicely with a report out of the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this morning. They say high food prices are going to be with us for a good long while and, as is often the case, the pain is not going to be spread evenly.

Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler has more.

Jeff Tyler: High food prices create incentives for farmers to plant more crops and increase production.

Dan Gustafson is with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which commissioned the study. He says food prices had been in a slump for decades. That kept countries from investing in higher-yield methods of farming.

Dan Gustafson: Now with unrest in cities and demand from urban populations for cheaper food and so on, I think the political equation for investing in agriculture looks a lot clearer than it did, let’s say a few years ago.

Most of the increase in production is expected to come from developing countries, but Julie Howard with The Partnership to Cut Poverty and Hunger in Africa
says not everyone benefits equally:

Julie Howard: Without a doubt, higher prices will spur increased investment in agriculture in Africa and that is a good thing,
but what we have to think about is you can’t just turn a switch and get more production overnight.

In the short term, she says, the poor need relief, but they need investment for the long-term. Howard says the current U.S. pledge of $150 million for ag development in Africa is a 10-year low.

Howard: That’s just, I think, a drop in the bucket of what’s needed and doesn’t even get us back to where we were four, five or 10 years ago in terms of our investment in African agriculture.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says $1.7 billion is needed to help poor countries pay for seeds, fertilizers and other materials for farming.

The UN will press its case next week at a conference on world food security in Rome.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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