Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 15:50 UK

France to double food aid budget

Nicolas Sarkozy - 18/4/2008
Mr Sarkozy warned of unrest as the price of basic foods spirals

France is to double its food aid for poor countries this year, to counter a sharp rise in global food prices, President Nicolas Sarkozy has said.

President Sarkozy said the emergency food aid budget would rise to 60m euros (47.5m; $94.5m).

He said 37 countries were "going through a very serious food crisis".

Earlier this week, US President George W Bush ordered the release of 127m euros (100.5m; $200m) of emergency aid to counter the food shortages.

Call to action

The cost of basic foods has risen sharply around the world in recent months, sparking protests in countries from Egypt to Indonesia.

Rice prices on world markets have climbed about 75% in just two months, and the cost of wheat has rocketed by 120% in the past year.

The price of maize, an African staple, has more than doubled since the beginning of 2006.

"We must act urgently to strengthen food security," said Mr Sarkozy.

Demonstrators in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 7 April 2008
Rising food prices have led to unrest in many countries, including Haiti

He warned that the escalation in food prices was creating a crisis.

"We cannot remain indifferent to the unrest among those people who, in the developing countries, can no longer satisfy their hunger," he said.

Growing populations, rising food consumption in emerging economies such as India and China, and poor weather are being blamed for the rise in food prices.

But a shift to biofuels - made from crops - to help reduce carbon emissions has also been singled out as a contributing factor.

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, told French radio that biofuels "pose a real moral problem".

He called for a moratorium on biofuels made from food crops, saying efforts to tackle global warming "must be balanced with the fact that people are going to die of hunger".

Last weekend, Mr Strauss-Kahn warned that hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of starvation because of the food crisis.

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