INTRODUCTION: The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation had a stern message for the wealthy countries of the Middle East when he spoke to the FAO's Near East Regional Conference on Tuesday (21 April).
GV EXT Conference hall.
GV PAN INT Delegates seated.
CU ZOOM GV FAO President Saouma addressing meeting.
CU PAN Delegates from Afghanistan, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq,Kuwait, Libya, Morocco,Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, North Yemen, Tunisia UAE, and South Yemen seated listening.
SV Said Mohammed Ruqbani takes position as chairman. (2 SHOTS)
CU Chairman speaking.
GV Delegates applaud.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation had a stern message for the wealthy countries of the Middle East when he spoke to the FAO's Near East Regional Conference on Tuesday (21 April). The Organisation's Director, The Saouma, said the region's richer countries were not investing enough in agriculture or offering adequate food aid to their poorer neighbours. He was addressing the opening of the five-day conference.
SYNOPSIS: The meeting was held in the FAO Headquarters in Rome's Via delle Terme di Caracalla. It was attended by 20 Arab countries as well as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cyprus and Iran. The regional conference, which is held every two years, is involved in agriculture, forestry, conservation, food and nutrition.
Mr. Saouma told the delegates that large financial resources were available of the economic development of the region. However, he said, agriculture had not had its due share of these funds. He said the Middle East's policies for economic and social development lagged behind the rest of the world in supporting food aid. Mr. Saouma pointed out that the World Bank allocated one-third of its funds to agricultural aid and the European Economic Community devoted 40 percent of its official aid to rural development. He said the Middle East suffered from unequal food distribution and a large trade deficit in food commodities. The Near East Co-operative Programme, under which rich countries helped the poor, had yielded 29 million dollars of aid in the past five years. but current projects had exhausted its funds.
The conference was chaired by Said Mohammed Ruqbani, Minister of Agriculture of the United Arab Emirates. The meeting comes at a time when the world is heading for a serious food shortage. Millions will face starvation in poor countries next year while the rich will be hit by rising food prices. The world's grain crop has been seriously affected by bad weather while its population - especially in the Third World - has been growing.
Last month the FAO warned that falling food stocks would leaved poor countries defenceless if grain production dropped again, and it called on donor nations to maintain their current levels of food aid in real terms. The organisation fears that budget allocations for aid may be held constant in money terms while rising prices reduce their true purchasing power. Developing countries are especially vulnerable, the FAO says. Some commodity experts have expressed doubts about such gloomy warnings, arguing that the statistics on which they are based cannot be relied upon because, they say, it is virtually impossible to measure supplies world-wide. But they are in a minority. Most experts believe the picture is grim indeed - and maintaining food stocks is the only way to guard against catastrophe.