October 16 is World Food Day, marking the founding of the Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. This year, the theme is "Agricultural cooperatives--key to feeding the world".
World Food Day is observed by other organizations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme. An agriculture cooperative, the focus of this year's World Food Day, involves farmers pooling their resources in different areas of agriculture. One type is an agricultural service cooperatives that provide various services to the invididual cooperative members. For example, the cooperative could purchase fuel for farmers. There are also production cooperatives, in which land and machinery may be owned by the cooperative. Kubbutzim in Israel are a type of agricultural production cooperative.
Talks in Rome brought together ministers from 20 different countries to discuss how food prices could be kept low, given shortages caused by droughts in Australia and the U.S. and reduced harvests in parts of Europe and also the Black Sea region. The FAO said the talks are aimed at increasing “the effectiveness of measures to address food price volatility and to reduce its impact on the most vulnerable." Global food prices rose by 1.4% just last month, after they had held steady for two months prior to that. There were increases in prices of cereals, meat, and also dairy products. The import bill for food of poor countries is estmated to climb by 3.7% from last year.
The FAO estimates almost 870 million people worldwide suffer from hunger. Even this huge number is actually down from more than a billion in the 1990s. However, if the present number were to consider those who are malnourished, the figure would rise to about 1.5 billion.
The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter said that when world food prices increase as they are doing now: "..it is not just that there are fewer meals but the meals are also less varied. This threat is not really seen as a priority but it should be.” The head of the FAO,Jose Da Silva, said it was vital to help smaller farmers and aid farming cooperatives as means of combating world hunger. Although the total number of people globally suffering from hunger has been going down,Da Silva noted: “The numbers are increasing in Africa and the Middle East.We cannot tolerate this in a land of plenty where production is sufficient for everyone.”
Da Silva noted that funds for aid and agriculture had been declining over the last decades and smaller farmers were left without resources. Small farmers, Da Silva said, have had to struggle to adapt to climate changes, market volatility, and often price declines. Promises by government to eradicate hunger have not been kept.