(AFP) – May 6, 2008
MANAGUA (AFP) — Presidents and representatives of several South and Central American nations prepared to meet here to discuss regional strategies to avert the food crisis affecting poor nations around the world, officials said Tuesday.
The meeting Wednesday was to include Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who last month announced a 100 million dollar donation toward a cereal production boosting program for Central America and members of the ALBA trade group -- Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Hosted by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the summit will study emergency measures Latin America can take to ensure domestic supplies of staple foods, as well as establishing fair prices for the region's food exports, in view of the ongoing crisis, said Nicaragua Agriculture Minister Ariel Bucardo.
Costa Rica's Deputy Agriculture Minister Roman Solera said the measures included using Chavez' initiative to create a "cereal fund" for Central America, which he said needed some 630 million dollars to get the 2008-2009 farming cycle under way.
Roman said the region was greatly underfunded for long-term investment in farming infrastructure, including storage and transport of goods.
Cuba and Mexico, he added, have offered their technological know-how in the effort.
Besides Chavez and Ortega, the one-day summit on Wednesday will also include presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Antonio Saca of El Salvador, Manuel Zelaya of Honduras and Martin Torrijos of Panama.
Cuba will send its Vice President Carlos Lage and Haiti, Dominican Republic and Belize, their government representatives.
Guatemala President Alvaro Colom, by law, cannot attend the summit because the country's vice president is abroad visiting Chile, his spokesman said, adding that Foreign Minister Haroldo Rodas would take his place.
Rising shortages of basic grains, milk and foodstuffs that have led to deadly violence in developing countries was described Tuesday as perhaps "the first global humanitarian emergency," by World Food Program chief Josette Sheeran in Washington.
WFP is seeking contributions for a 755-million-dollar emergency fund while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is trying to raise 1.7 billion dollars to provide seeds to the poor and boost output.
Global food prices have nearly doubled in three years, according to the World Bank, sparking riots and protests in several poor countries.
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