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African ministers meet to discuss food security

NAIROBI, June 16 – African ministers gathered here Monday to discuss food security as the world’s poorest continent reels from a global food crisis triggered by surging energy and commodity prices.

The 25th Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Regional Conference for Africa, taking place in Kenya until Friday, is to discuss ways of boosting agriculture and food security, such as by improving water management.

"I am confident that the results of the deliberations will provide the organisation and its partners with recommendations and necessary guidance to help boost agricultural development and food security in Africa," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in a statement.

Food prices have doubled in three years, according to the World Bank, sparking riots in many African nations and elsewhere. Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt have all imposed food export restrictions.

The conference chairman, Kenyan Agriculture Minister William Ruto, also blamed sluggish agriculture for the current food crisis.

"Food and nutrition insecurity is a growing problem brought about by the slow growth of the agricultural sector," Ruto said in a statement published in newspapers.

"The (food) insecurity is further exacerbated by the global rise in food prices brought about by the rising demand for cereals, weather-related supply shocks, high cost of energy and increased prices for fertilizers and other inputs," added Ruto.

A FAO crisis summit early this month in Rome pledged 6.5 billion dollars (4.1 billion euros) in emergency food relief and vowed to halve global hunger by 2015 by taking "urgent" action over the global food crisis.

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A recent FAO report estimated that, to meet rising demand, food production must double by 2030.

Despite record production in 2008, food prices are expected to remain high, impacting on the world’s poor and sparking riots in countries reliant on imports, the FAO report said.

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