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2008年6月 7日 (土)


06/07/2008 --The Asahi Shimbun, June 6(IHT/Asahi: June 7,2008)

EDITORIAL: Food crisis talks


The world is confronted with an emergency that is worthy of the label "food shock." Skyrocketing prices of wheat, soybeans, rice and other major grains have triggered riots in impoverished countries in Africa and Asia by hungry mobs. Nations increasingly are moving to safeguard their own domestic food supplies.



To address the mounting crisis, the High-Level Conference on World Food Security, sponsored by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, met for three days in Rome during the past week. The heads of 50 countries, including Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, attended to speak out on this pressing global issue. We salute the significance of that gathering.



Grain prices began rising a year or so ago. Drought conditions in major agricultural countries overlapped with increased demand for food in developing regions, further spurring the price hikes from this year. Alarmed by the situation, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon elevated the conference from working level to summit status, and urged top leaders to take part.



The prices of major grains have jumped 1.5 to 3 times in the international market over the past year alone. Such steep increases render it impossible for many poor countries to purchase enough food to feed their people. At the conference, key nations announced food aid policies. For the time being, however, the only safe course would appear to be to keep expanding such assistance so as to prevent conditions from worsening further.


The real problem is that the soaring prices do not appear to be a passing phenomenon. Experts are of the view that even if speculative money flowing in from financial markets abates, grain prices will continue to remain high.




Supporting such assumptions is the rapid expansion of food appetites in China, India and other highly populated nations hand in hand with their economic growth. By 2050, the world will have an additional 2.5 billion people to feed, bringing the global population to 9 billion. It is a foregone conclusion that demand for food will only escalate.



This is precisely why hopes were high that the conference would define an international order to address the emerging era of food shortages. It is regrettable, therefore, that the gathering primarily served to accentuate the points of disagreement on this front.



For example, there are differences in the positions held by food exporters and importers. Some 15 countries have begun to introduce export bans, tariffs or other restrictions on outbound shipments. In the event of an eventual curtailing in food trade due to the inability to rely upon imports, exporting countries would also sustain losses. Yet, even though Japan, the world's greatest net importer of food, used the Rome event to demand self-restraint in the exercising of export controls, exporter nations stuck to their guns, arguing that securing domestic food supplies is their top priority.



There are also clear gaps in thinking between the United States, Brazil and other countries that promote the production of biofuels from farm produce and those that do not. Although this was heavily criticized as a chief cause behind the sharp rise in grain prices, the supporters of that stance made it clear they would not back down.


Can a new order be created to resolve such standoffs? How can a global scheme encouraging increased grain production be put into place? In Japan, a drastic change in current domestic farming policy has become essential.



The long-running food glut is quickly becoming a shortage, generating a critical need for revisions that address the changing times. We look forward to speedy preparations to tackle this issue at next month's Group of Eight summit at Lake Toyako in Hokkaido.



--The Asahi Shimbun, June 6(IHT/Asahi: June 7,2008)

朝日新聞 6月06日号 (英語版 2008年6月07日発行)


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