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Friday, May 30, 2008

Japan pledges $50 million for food

Aid aims to help Africa's poorest amid price surge, improve infrastructure for family farmers

Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda pledged Thursday $50 million in additional aid for Africa to deal with soaring food prices and the World Bank and three U.N. food-related organizations renewed their commitment to address food shortages and high food prices on the continent.

On the second day of the three-day Tokyo International Conference on African Development being held in Yokohama, Fukuda told a meeting of the four organizations that Japan's aid will help the agricultural sector and that he will attend the Food and Agriculture Organization's meeting in Rome in June to discuss the food crisis.

"Record high prices of (oil and food) are a painful pinch for consumers all over the world, and for those who are living (on) less than $1 a day, it's devastating," World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran said at a news conference after the joint meeting of the World Bank, WFP, FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

"I want to thank the government of Japan for its generous contribution of $50 million," Sheeran said.

During the meeting, titled "Facing the challenges and opportunities of high food prices," the leaders of the four organizations agreed to feed the hungry immediately, help African countries grow more food in the future by supplying resources such as seeds and fertilizer, and make sure trade restrictions don't disrupt such measures. They also agreed to secure funds to implement their activities.

In addition, they said they want to turn the food crisis into an opportunity for Africa.

"We are emphasizing that (high food prices) also presents an opportunity because Africa has great potential to provide food" to the world, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said.

There are more than 80 million smallholder farmers in Africa, accounting for most of the continent's food production and they are central to any solution to the current crisis and the long-term problem of hunger and poverty, the four groups said in a statement.

IFAD President Lennart Bage stressed the importance of building a solid infrastructure since massive amounts of food are lost due to delays in transport and other problems.

FAO will urge world leaders to cooperate on the Thursday agreement at the High-Level Conference on World Food Security, which FAO will host in Rome in June.

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The Japan Times

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