Global hunger is rising rapidly due to sharp spikes in food commodity prices.

The combination of global food crisis and economic recession pushed the number of hungry people beyond the one billion mark, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's Director-General Jacques Diouf told the 36th session of the Inter-governmental Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome on Wednesday.

The session has been timed with the World Food Day on Saturday.

Agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan, who was recently elected the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the High Level Panel of Experts, is among those attending the five-day meet on improved global food security.

Heads of U.N. food agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund of Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme — met at the first day's session.

Describing the number of hungry people in the world as “unacceptably high,” Dr. Diouf said it was higher than the number that existed when the heads of states and governments committed themselves to reducing hunger by half at the World Food Summit in 1996.

The presence of widespread hunger, malnutrition and poverty and the inability to protect vulnerable people from the effects of shocks point to a “structural, more profound” problem of food insecurity that requires “urgent, resolute and concerted action.”

“The world has to grapple with a declining rate of growth in agricultural productivity, including that of major cereals.

“Yet agricultural production will need to increase by 70 per cent in the world and double in the developing countries to feed a global population expected to reach 9.1 billion in 2050.

“All this will have to occur in the face of climate change and scarce natural resources.”

According to Dr. Diouf, the increased instability in commodity markets as reflected by “more volatile prices” also required urgent attention.

“Global problems demand global as well as local solutions. The renewed CFS constitutes the required platform for debating global complex problems and reaching consensus on solutions.” The meeting will look at important issues related to food security, such as land tenure and international investment in agriculture, food security in protracted crises, and ways to manage vulnerability and risk.

On Friday, the FAO will appoint Italian actor Raoul Bova, Canadian singer Celine Dion, Filipino singer Lea Salonga and American actor Susan Sarandon as its Goodwill Ambassadors to help in the global fight against hunger.

Keywords: World Food Day

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