The rapid increase in hunger and malnourishment since the food crisis of 2008 reveals the inadequacy of the present global food system and the urgent need for structural changes, Mr Diouf said, addressing the Gulf Cooporation Council (GCC) Ministerial Forum on Agricultural Investment in Abu Dhabi, attended by representatives of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the host country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"The food price and economic crises have had a severe impact on millions of people in all parts of the world," he said. In recent months the international prices of most agricultural commodities have increased, many of them sharply. The global food import bill could pass the one trillion dollar mark in 2010, a level not seen since food prices peaked at record levels in 2008.
"These trends," Mr Diouf said, "can have severe implications for countries like the Gulf countries, which depend on commercial imports for a large share of their food consumption needs".
In the Near East and North Africa region, the number of hungry and malnourished people currently is estimated at 37 million, nearly 10 per cent of the region's population.
Structural changes a must
Structural changes can improve food security, Mr Diouf said. In the short term, this means targeted safety nets and social protection programmes as well as reliable and timely information on food commodity markets. Small-scale farmers must be assured access to indispensable means of production and technologies — such as high-quality seeds, fertilizers, feed and farming tools and equipment.
In the medium and longer terms, however, investment in agriculture is the answer. Food-deficit countries must be given the necessary technical and financial solutions and policy tools to enhance their agricultural sectors in terms of productivity and resilience in the face of crises.