THE leaders of the G8 group of rich nations who will hold their annual meeting next week in Japan usually receive high-level advice on what their priorities should be at their gathering.

But this year there is an extra urgency in what they are being told. In a wide-ranging and action-orientated article in The Guardian yesterday, The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the urgent need to increase food production in the Third World and called for a tripling of research and development aimed particularly at helping subsistence farmers in Africa to produce more. Also yesterday the New York Times got hold of a letter sent by the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, to the Japanese prime minister, Yasuo Fkada, who will chair next week's meeting. Mr Zoellick wrote: “What we are witnessing is not a natural disaster - a silent tsunami or a perfect storm - it is a man-made catastrophe, and as such it must be fixed by people.” Zoellick says that for the world's 41 poorest countries the combined effect of high food, fuel and other commodities will cause “broken lives and stunted potential”. This prediction was backed-up by a new report from the International Monetary Fund saying that “Some countries really are at a tipping-point...and their governments will no longer be able to feed their people and at the same time maintain stability in their economies”. G8 meetings tend to pledge generous aid funds but do not always deliver. This time delivery will matter.


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