Biofuels depriving world of 100 million tons of cereals

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 07:32:00 07/22/2008

HAVANA — The production of biofuels is depriving the world of around 100 million tons of cereals that could go to feed the hungry, the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday on a visit to Cuba.

Increased oil prices and trade barriers have prompted farmers to rush to cultivate more profitable crops used for biofuels rather than for food, Jacques Diouf said in a speech at the University of Havana.

“The result is nearly 100 million tons of cereals that have been removed from the food market to satisfy energy needs,” he said.

Diouf, who was in Cuba to study moves being made by the communist government to cope with the world food crisis, said corn and wheat outputs were being particularly hard hit.

Traditional farming systems may be “radically” upended by the large and growing energy market, said Diouf, who is a fierce critic of biofuels.

“The use of agricultural resources for the energy market may introduce a completely new paradigm in world agriculture,” he said.

“If energy prices remain high and the production of primary materials for the energy market continue to be an economically viable activity, the result will be a turnaround in the tendency towards decreasing real prices … and, consequently, food will continue to become more and more expensive,” he warned.

The World Bank estimates that food prices have almost doubled over the past three years. Its president, Robert Zoellick, has said two billion people are affected by the food crisis.(PDI)

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