As millions of people across this region struggle to find enough food to eat each day, Kevin Rudd must use his influence as a regional leader to ensure G8 places the world’s food crisis at the top of its agenda this week.
The Prime Minister, who has said he will encourage the G8 to ‘apply the blowtorch’ to OPEC about fuel prices, must also apply a blowtorch to the wider international community about food prices. World leaders must commit more resources to combating increased food prices, which is having a drastic impact on the world’s poor.
Oxfam Acting Executive Director, James Ensor, said that while fuel prices were hurting Australians, food prices were starving Indonesians, Filipinos, the East Timorese and many others across the region.
“Despite his observer status, the Prime Minister, as a regional leader, has an important opportunity to also champion the needs of the people of the Asia Pacific region on rising food prices, not just to represent Australians on fuel prices,” Mr Ensor said.
Mr Ensor said in Indonesia the price of soybean had reached a 10 year high of almost Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) 7,500 (A.84 cents), per kilogram which is beyond the reach of many low-income families and nearly double the normal price of IDR 4,000 (A.45 cents) per kilogram.
“In Thailand expensive animal feed is hurting small-scale dairy and livestock producers, while consumers are suffering from the rapid rise in food prices, especially for items such as pork, chicken, egg, rice and vegetable oil,” Mr Ensor said.
“In March 2008, the global price of rice hit a 19-year high and the global price of wheat rose to a 28-year high according to the World Bank.
“We are calling on leaders to recommit to their pledges on aid, and to take decisive action to help poor people cope with spiralling food prices by funding developing countries. Rich countries need to review biofuels policies, which are reducing land available for growing food. We need to tackle the root causes of these problems; the US, EU and Japan all heavily subsidise their farm industries to the detriment of developing country famers and their products.”
Oxfam was joined by a cast of high-profile supporters, including actors Scarlett Johansson, Gael Garcia Bernal and Kristin Davis and singer Annie Lenox, who called for the summit to respond urgently to global challenges, starting with a boost in funds for climate change, the food crisis and development aid.
“It is the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to increased food prices and it is these same people who are affected worst by the impacts of climate change,” Ms Lenox said.
“We look to the G8 to address the global economic uncertainty, but they must also look beyond their own borders and not turn their backs on the world’s poorest people.”
The G8 meets in Japan from 7-9 July for their annual summit.
Contact: Louis Belanger at the G8 Meeting (firstname.lastname@example.org) +81 80 2610 5564 or Laurelle Keough in Australia on +61 409 960 100
* The 290m people estimated to be at risk are the poorest people in the 53 most affected countries – the 49 Least Developed Countries, and Tajikistan, Zimbabwe, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Kenya. The figure of $14.5bn is based on these people requiring an average of $50 per capita in 2008.