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Getting Enough Food a 'Distant Dream' for Almost a Billion

A U.N. report shows an increase of 40 million undernourished people in 2008, mainly because of higher food prices. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The United Nations says forty million more people around the world went hungry this year, mainly because of higher food prices. Early estimates from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization show that nine hundred sixty-three million people did not get enough to eat. That represents fourteen percent of the world population.

World food prices have dropped since early this year. But F.A.O. official Hafez Ghanem says lower prices have failed to end the food crisis in many poor countries. "For millions in developing countries," he says, "eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream."

This year's report on food insecurity warns that the current economic crisis could send even more people into hunger and poverty.

Prices of major cereal crops have decreased by more than half from their highs earlier this year. But they remain high compared to earlier years.

Seed and fertilizer prices have more than doubled since two thousand six. As a result, the F.A.O. says cereal production in developing countries may increase just one percent this year. Developed countries are likely to have gains of at least ten percent.

The agency says two-thirds of the world's undernourished live in just seven countries. These are India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage who continually go hungry fell from thirty-four percent in nineteen ninety-seven to thirty percent in two thousand five. But the F.A.O. says Ghana is the only country that has reached two sets of hunger reduction targets. These were set by the nineteen ninety-six World Food Summit and the Millennium Development Goals. The main reason is growth in agricultural production in Ghana.

The F.A.O. says some countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand and Vietnam have made progress toward hunger reduction goals. But South Asia and Central Asia have had setbacks.

A separate report predicts that a deficit in cereal production will increase hunger in North Korea. About forty percent of North Koreans are expected to need food aid in the coming year, even after a harvest that was better than usual. Officials from the F.A.O. and the World Food Program visited North Korea in October. They found that crops there will not meet the needs of close to nine million people.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I'm Steve Ember.