KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 (Bernama) — The global food security remains precarious as extreme weather, natural disaster and continued uncertainties in world financial markets has continued to spike food prices to record highs, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday.
Last month, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) food price index stood at a record high of 232 points, a massive hike in world food prices which was driven by a production slump prompted by extreme weather, he said.
Russian drought saw the price of wheat increase by more than 50 per cent last year, which saw Russia freezing exports.
This year, corn planting in the United States, the world’s largest grower, is progressing at less than half of last year’s pace because of heavy rain.
“And, while dry spells are threathening Europe, floods in China have left one million acres of farmland sodden. Adding to this is the catastrophe in Japan, increasing oil prices and continued uncertainty in the world financial markets and it is not surprising that the outlook is bleak,” he said at the launch of the Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC) here.
Hence, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation is projecting a decline to 1.7 per cent in global agricultural production this year, said Najib, who is also Finance Minister.
Present were Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin and University of Nottingham Campus Malaysia Chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Rithaudden Tengku Ismail.
The good news is that such a scenario has moved governments around the world to focus on agriculture and steps are being taken towards putting long-term solutions in place, he said.
Malaysia, on its part, has earmarked agriculture as one of its National Key Economic Area and, as part of this process, food security would be strategically addressed to ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of staple crops like rice, he said.
The government also recognises that growth in high value agriculture products has been constrained by factors like limited access to suitable land and financing, inadequate support services, lack of research and development and weak links to the market.
Among others, the CFFRC would serve as a demonstration of Malaysia’s commitment to agriculture research, said Najib.
“(Also) establish Malaysia as a global hub for research and knowledge tranfer in the field of under-utilised crops and in the long-run it will make a significant contribution to the nation’s food supply and the world,” he added.
The CFFRC is expected to receive government funding of nearly RM113 million over seven years to carry out research on an entire range of under-utilised crops from across the globe.
The centre, the first of its kind in the world, is co-hosted by the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus in Semenyih, in partnership with the government.
Source : Bernama