G8 nations pledge ag investment: report

Canada and the other major industrialized democracies in the G8 plan a US$12 billion, three-year commitment to invest in agriculture in developing countries, according to the Financial Times.

The G8 will kick off its annual summit on Wednesday in L’Aquila, Italy, running until Friday.

According to the summit’s official website, “all of the leaders attending the L’Aquila summit will be signing a joint declaration with the international organizations and launching an important initiative on food safety and security, to fund farming and to support the struggle against starvation.

“Moreover, the G8 under Italy’s presidency is committed to laying the groundwork for launching a G8-Africa Partnership designed to improve access to water and to basic sanitary facilities, before the end of the year.”

The summit website notes that over a billion people worldwide now suffer from malnutrition or starvation, aggravated by decades of “insufficient investment in farming” and by the current economic crisis.

More specifically, the G8’s member nations plan to triple spending on ag development, in a move that shows a continuing shift from food aid toward longer-term investments in farming capacity in developing countries, the Financial Times’ Javier Blas wrote.

Blas, writing from the paper’s home base of London, England, quoted unnamed United Nations officials and G8 diplomats who’d already been briefed on what he called the “L’Aquila Food Security Initiative.”

According to those sources, Japan and the U.S. will each put up US$3 billion to $4 billion, while Europe and Canada will provide the rest of the funding.

The initiative will be particularly noteworthy for the participation of the U.S., reversing Washington’s policies that have focused for years almost exclusively on food aid, Blas wrote. The U.S. government has also relied largely on its own farmers to grow food aid, spending about US$2 billion per year.

The G8’s members include Canada, Japan, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. Italy holds the G8 presidency in 2009 and thus is the summit host. Canada follows on the rotating list to preside over the G8 and host the next summit, to be held June 25-27, 2010 in the Muskoka community of Huntsville, Ont.

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