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Headlines For Tuesday, April 15, 2008

White House Releases $200 Million In Food Crisis Aid

 “The White House on Monday authorized the release of $200 million in emergency food aid to help alleviate a growing global food crisis, a spokeswoman said. …‘This additional food aid will address the impact of rising commodity prices on US emergency food aid programs, and be used to meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere.’ …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


Reuters notes that US President George “Bush …directed the agriculture secretary to draw down on the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, a food reserve for emergency needs in the developing world, to free up about $200 million through the US Agency for International Development.


White House spokeswoman Dana Perino had said Bush, who was briefed about the food crisis during a cabinet meeting earlier on Monday, was ‘very concerned’ and asked senior aides to look into ways the United States could help ease shortages. …


Perino had said the administration was sticking to its proposal to buy more of the food used in assistance programs from suppliers closer to needy countries, which would cut transportation costs. …” [Reuters/Factiva]


Xinhua adds that “…Perino, earlier told reporters that the US was in a progress of ‘looking at ways to meet some of the ongoing food needs of certain countries, beyond what has already been provided.’ She noted the need to identify the source problems to put a long-term plan in place that can help take care of the world's poor and hungry. …” [Xinhua/Factiva]


UN Hosts High-Level Meeting To Address Challenges In Development Finance

 “The UN hosted on Monday a high-level meeting of international trade and finance officials to discuss measures to deal with policy challenges and emerging issues in development finance. Participants at the annual high-level meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) included senior officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). …


Turning to the theme of meeting, Ban called for building consensus around measures on development financing that would lead to more stable and predictable long-term resource flows to developing countries. ECOSOC President Leo Merores said that new initiatives on financing for development could play a crucial role in increasing and complementing existing official development assistance. …


The high-level gathering focused on new and emerging issues, including financing of climate change responses, sustainability of financial markets, impact of trade on middle-income as well as least developed countries and - in a mid-term year for the Millennium Development Goals - identifying and mobilizing new resources for supporting development. …” [Xinhua/Factiva]


AP reports that “A rapidly escalating global food crisis has reached emergency proportions and threatens to wipe out seven years of progress in the fight against poverty, Ban warned Monday. He called for short-term emergency measures in many regions to meet urgent food needs and avoid starvation and urged longer-term efforts to significantly increase production of food grains. …” [The Associated Press/Factiva]


AFP notes that “…Ban's appeal echoed World Bank President Robert Zoellick's warning Sunday that a doubling of food prices over the past three years could push 100 million people in developing countries further into poverty and called on governments to tackle the issue. …


The UN must examine ways ‘to lead a process for the immediate and longer-term responses to this global problem,’ he added. He urged consensus on steps to boost development financing that would lead to more stable and predictable long-term resource flows to developing countries.


And he called for stepped-up investment and technology transfer from donors to help the least developed countries broaden their exports through diversification and economic capacity-building. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


Donors, Palestinian Investment Fund Create $500 Million Mortgage Company In West Bank

“The Palestinian government unveiled a US-led plan Monday to build 30,000 affordable apartments over five years and offer $500 million in long-term mortgages.


The construction is meant to create thousands of jobs and ease a severe housing shortage. The Palestinians need 65,000 apartments now, and demand is growing by 11,000 homes ever year, officials said. Long-term mortgages are rare in the Palestinian territories, where most would-be homeowners save for long periods, borrow from relatives or build their homes over many years. …


Under the plan, 10 new suburbs are to be built in the West Bank and Gaza, each with a commercial center, school and mosque. …Palestinian President Mahmoud …Abbas said such economic development will give the Palestinians more faith in a better future. …The $1.5 billion construction project will be overseen by the Palestine Investment Fund, which hopes to bring in private investors from the Palestinian territories and the Arab world. …” [The Associated Press/Factiva]


NYT writes that “…Half of the money for the new mortgage company, $250 million, will come from the US through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The rest will be from the Palestine Investment Fund, the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank and the Bank of Palestine, with a smaller contribution from the British government.


At a ceremony in Ramallah, Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister who is representing the international community in helping the Palestinian Authority build institutions, called the plan ‘a major step forward for ordinary Palestinians.’ …” [The New York Times/Factiva]


Farm Practices Must Change To Counter High Food Prices: Study

Farming practices must change to confront soaring food prices that threaten to drive millions of poor people around the world into even deeper poverty, said a new study …released in Paris Tuesday.


‘Business as usual is no longer an option,’ the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development will say in a report, according to a statement from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), where the study will be presented. …


The UNESCO statement …said that since March 2007 prices for soya beans have risen 87 percent and those for wheat 130 percent at a time when global grain stores are at their lowest levels on record. It attributed the trend to increased demand in emerging market powerhouses China and India as well as the alternative use of maize and soya beans for biofuels.


UNESCO said the report …urge[s] that agricultural science pay greater attention to safeguarding natural resources and to promoting ‘agro-ecological’ practices, such as the use of natural fertilizers and traditional seeds and reducing the distance between the farm and the consumer. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


AP notes that “…The authors of the report - which brought together 400 contributors including scientists, government officials, activists and businesspeople - say farming is responsible for more than a third of the most deteriorated land in the world…


The UNESCO report is expected to plumb the deeper and longer-term causes of the troubles in the food industry, and recommend ‘urgent change in the rules that govern modern agriculture,’ the statement said. …The price hikes have hit people in developing countries hardest. …” [The Associated Press/Factiva]


Meanwhile in a separate piece, AP writes that “The EU said Monday it is studying further measures to help poor countries deal with rising food prices as the bloc's agriculture ministers debated increasing cereal production. …


Michael Mann, spokesman for EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, said EU nations were already increasing production this year, thanks to decisions taken last year allowing farmers to use more of their land for production. …Mann added there was no danger of a shift away from food to biofuels production by European farmers because profits for food-use cereals were higher than crops sold for biofuels use.


In Luxembourg, the EU's 27 agriculture ministers were debating what further measures they could take to boost production of wheat, corn, oats and other grains, prices of which have skyrocketed due to shortages. French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier presented plans to his counterparts calling for the EU to set up a food security plan to bolster production in Europe and to share expertise with developing countries to boost crop outputs there as well. …” [The Associated Press/Factiva]


Indonesia Says To Launch Bird Flu Pandemic Plan.

 “Indonesia, which has the highest death toll from bird flu of any country, will launch a plan later this week to deal with a possible influenza pandemic, officials said on Monday. Heru Setijanto, head of surveillance and monitoring at the national commission for bird flu control, said the plan would be followed up a week later by a three-day pandemic simulation involving several villages on the resort island of Bali.


In the case of a pandemic, an estimated 5 million Indonesians could be infected with the virus, he said, adding that of those infected, between 5 and 10 percent would die. …The official also said researchers were looking into the role of migratory birds in transmitting bird flu. …” [Reuters/Factiva]


Meanwhile in related bird flu news, AFP notes that “Indonesia and the US must work together to prevent a global bird flu pandemic, the top US health official said in Jakarta Monday. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt said bird flu was a danger to the whole world and stressed the importance of international cooperation. …‘” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


Also in this Edition: Briefly Noted...


Briefly Noted… Africa's lack of transport infrastructure is denying the world's poorest continent the full economic benefits of a preferential trade agreement with the US, a top US trade official said on Monday. Passed in 2000 and expected to end in 2015, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is designed to give 39 sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access on more than 1,500 selected items in the $14 trillion US market. [Reuters/Factiva]


In a statement to the World Bank, Germany's Minister for Economic and Development Cooperation, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said every available opportunity should be used to boost growth in Africa and added the World Bank should help governments work with potential investors such as wealth funds. [Reuters/Factiva]


A global increase in biofuel production threatens to make food for Latin America's poor less accessible, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report presented at its conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in Brasilia. [Reuters/Factiva]


A failure to develop agriculture and other sustainable economic activities in Aceh threatens to destabilize the Indonesian province over the next year, Craig Thorburn, author of a study of areas devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami warned yesterday. [The Financial Times (UK)]


China has already overtaken the US as the world's biggest polluter, a report to be published next month says. The research suggests the country's greenhouse gas emissions have been underestimated, and probably passed those of the US in 2006-2007. The University of California team will report their work in the Journal of Environment Economics and Management. [BBC News (UK)]


China has banned the construction of new soya bean crushing plants, in a move designed to reduce overcapacity in the industry and check the growing market share of foreign companies in the food oil business. The announcement, by an official of the economic planning ministry in Beijing yesterday, follows the related decision late last year to restrict foreign ownership in new crushing plants to 49 percent. [The Financial Times (UK)]


Impoverished Afghans struggling with rising wheat prices are not expected to get any relief soon with no sign prices are going to come down, World Food Program Director in Afghanistan, Rick Corsino told a news conference on Monday.. [Reuters/Factiva]


The Pakistani rupee fell to a six-year low against the US dollar yesterday, prompting widespread concerns over the country's economic health a week after Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had warned of a looming economic crisis. [The Financial Times (UK)]


Ukraine is likely to be in a position to block Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation later this year, giving it significant leverage that it could use in natural gas supply talks or in retaliation over Moscow's opposition to plans by Ukraine and Georgia to join Nato. [The Financial Times (UK)]


Corporates can help end global poverty by investing in social business - instead of spending money in sponsoring football and cricket matches and concerts, public relations activities or charities - that will run like proper businesses with a social cause, Professor Muhammed Yunus said Monday at the International Islamic Finance Forum in Dubai. [Gulf News (Dubai, UAE)/Factiva]


Moroccoon Monday launched a dam project worth $15.2 million and aimed to supply one of the country's poorest regions with drinking water, MAP official news agency reported. The dam, called Sehb El Marga, will provide 19,000 inhabitants in the Guigou rural area in the middle-Atlas mountain chain with drinking water and protect them against floods, the report said. [Xinhua/Factiva]


British-based charity WaterAid is calling on the G8 summit in Japan later this year to agree to take a global action plan meant to improve water supply and sanitation. [Kyodo News (Japan)/Factiva]


The world's biggest carbon polluters meet in Paris on Thursday and Friday, taking the next steps in a maze that may eventually lead to a new pact for tackling climate change. The Major Economies Meeting is the third in a series launched last September by US President George Bush. [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


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