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June 06, 2008

FAO official deplores African governments' attitudes to agriculture

An official at the Africa department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Modibo Traoré, in Yokohama, central Japan, said that the food crisis in Africa was a consequence of the poor agricultural policy that has been developed on the continent for decades.

"African countries have not invested enough in agriculture and what is happening now is just a sign of a structural crisis," he said.

Speaking at a plenary session on agriculture, on the second day of the fourth Tokyo International Conference on Africa's Development (TICAD), Traore deplored the African countries' attitude to previous FAO warnings.

"In 1996, FAO had organised a summit on agriculture and food crisis risks. Unfortunately, that did not change much," he said. "Some Africans who enjoyed food self-sufficiency of about 85% now have to import up to over half of their food needs. Now small farmers have no more seeds," he lamented.

The FAO official highlighted the importance of devising sub-regional agricultural policies in Africa as a way of finding lasting solutions to the food crisis.

"No African country alone can tackle a food crisis of such extent. We need sub-regional responses and the development of the African agriculture must be planned at the sub regional level,'' he said.

His opinion was shared by several speakers, including the chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, Gabonese Jean Ping, who moderated the session.

"This crisis suddenly reminds us that we have not invested enough in agriculture," Ping said, adding: ''To address the situation, we must have clear sub-regional responses because none of our countries can find the solution by itself."

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