UN report warns of enormous numbers facing food insecurity despite abundant crop

18 December 2008 – Despite record breaking bumper cereal harvests for 2008, some one billion people around the world are malnourished, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced today.

Wheat and rice production set a new record this year at over 2 billion tons, which is more than a 5 per cent rise over 2007, with most of the increase achieved in richer nations and the developing world making a marginal contribution.

Although international cereal prices have dropped over recent months – wheat and coarse grains averaged 40 per cent and 20 per cent less than in December last year – food prices remain high in developing countries. In Afghanistan, Eritrea and Ethiopia prices of food staples are at least twice as high as a last year.

FAO’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report warns that some 33 countries around the world are in need of external food assistance as a result of crop failures, conflict or insecurity and high domestic food prices.

In Zimbabwe, where the number of food insecure is around 5 million, a recent outbreak of cholera poses an additional threat to health and nutrition of the vulnerable population, and in the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK), almost 9 million people, or around 40 per cent of the population, urgently need food assistance.

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