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1 billion to go hungryon planet,UN predicts

THE number of hungry people in the world could soon hit a record 1 billion, despite a recent drop in food prices, the United Nations food aid organization said.

The recent financial crisis has helped to reduce global food prices but it has also led to falling trade and lower development aid, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's general director, Jacques Diouf.

As a result, an additional 104 million people were likely to go hungry this year - meaning they receive fewer than 1,800 calories a day, Diouf said on Wednesday after a two-day meeting in Paris between the FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"We have never seen so many hungry people in the world," Diouf said.

The number of people considered hungry increased last year as well, by 40 million, and in 2007, when 75 million more people joined the ranks, Diouf said.

If the projection for 2009 proves accurate, that would mean that about 1 billion people - or about one-sixth of the world's population - will go hungry by the end of the year, he said.

"Food security is a matter of peace and security in the world," he said, stressing that food production will have to double by 2050 to keep pace with population growth.

World food prices have dropped 30 percent since June 2008 but they are still above 2006 levels, Diouf said. In the developing world, however, food prices have dropped only 12-14 percent since June 2008, he said.

Surveys show that prices of basic staple foods in many poor countries have barely registered any drop.

Higher food prices spurred a 12 to 13 percent increase in production in wealthy countries. But developing countries - excluding giants such as China, Brazil and India - have only seen a 0.4 percent rise in food production, "which is totally offset by the increase in population," Diouf said.

Systemic problems - such as weak infrastructure and dependence on rain - are to blame for poor nations' near-stagnant production. Bad roads in rural areas, lack of proper food storage facilities and a lack of irrigation infrastructure continue to hinder farmers in poor countries.


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