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Italian Agriculture Chief Blasts Food Speculation

posted on October 23, 2009


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia called Thursday for a ban on speculation in the financial markets on the price of food.

Zaia, whose nation holds the rotating chair of the club of wealthy nations known as the G-8, said he emphasized the issue during a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"I underscored the need for a strict condemnation of the speculations in the market," Zaia said in an interview at Italy's U.N. Mission in New York. "It's a scandal that there are financial products that speculate on the price of foodstuffs."

Zaia is not the first to issue such criticism.

A report in late 2008 by a Minnesota-based think tank, for example, blamed excessive speculation by traders and processors in the agriculture commodity markets for causing fluctuation in global food prices.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy blamed some of the fluctuation on hundreds of billions of dollars invested in agricultural commodities index funds.

Zaia spoke ahead of the World Summit on Food Security slated for Nov. 16-18 in Rome, the third such summit since 1996.

World leaders including Ban anticipate issuing a declaration to try to rid the world of hunger by 2025, Zaia said.

"I think that the objective can be achieved through intermediate phases," he said. However, similar declarations at the previous summits in 2002 and 1996 fell well short.

In 2002, for example, 182 nations committed to trying to halve the number of hungry people in world by 2015. There were then an estimated 800 million were going hungry around the world.

Now, there are more than 1 billion people going hungry in the world, including 100 million people who have lost the ability to buy enough food to eat because of the global financial crisis, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.

All but 15 million of the world's malnourished people are believed to live in developing countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Three million people die of hunger each year around the world. About 140 million children are considered malnourished.

Development experts and agricultural experts hope that food production can be increased by 50 percent in 2030 and by 70 percent in 2050, enough to feed the world's anticipated 9 billion population.

At the Group of 8 meeting of leaders in L'Aquila, Italy in July, world leaders pledged at least $20 billion to meet future food demands.


Tags: agriculture European Union food Italy markets news