UN seeks $98 million to improve food safety measures

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BRUSSELS, Belgium – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization proposed setting up a $98 million fund to help the world’s least developed countries improve the safety and quality of their food products. The proposal was made at the third UN conference on the least developed countries May 15.

The fund would support projects to develop, rehabilitate, upgrade and sustain national food safety and quality systems in the least developed countries. It would also assist them to comply with international requirements and help them participate in international standard-setting bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Voluntary contributions.

The fund would be set up with voluntary contributions from bilateral and multilateral donors. It would take about $2 million per country for the 49 least developed countries, to achieve this objective within three to five years, according to FAO.

“The economies of least developed countries now have to compete in a more fiercely competitive and increasingly globalized world market,” FAO’s Assistant Director-General Hartwig de Haen said.

De Haen said that “most least developed countries are far from being at a cutting edge of available agricultural technology and there is great potential to increase both productivity and production.”

He emphasized that “a renewed focus on agricultural and rural development” and increased external assistance for least developed countries were extremely important because “new developments such as in biotechnology may pose further threats to competitiveness of agriculture” in these countries.

Hunger is mounting.

Between 1969-71 and 1996-98, the proportion of undernourished in total population in least developed countries increased from 38 percent to 40 percent, while the absolute number of undernourished increased from 116 million to 235 million.

For the developing countries taken together, by contrast, the proportion of undernourished in total population decreased from 37 to 18 percent during the same period.

In addition, many least developed countries changed from being net food exporters during the 1960s to net food importers during the 1980s and 1990s. Current projections are for their dependence on imports to increase at least up to 2015, according to FAO.

Technical assistance from FAO helps least developed countries to meet pressing short-term needs and to build a modern food and agricultural sector by better exploiting their human and natural resource potentials.

In 2000 alone, more than 700 field projects, with a total budget value of $423 million, were active in 46 of the 49 least developed countries.

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