Italy will bear a "historic responsibility" for helping to resolve the world food crisis when it takes over the G8 presidency next year, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf said Wednesday.
Speaking to the Italian parliament's foreign and agricultural committees, Diouf said that FAO had already made contact with Italian authorities about moving forward with a plan to create a world network of food and agriculture experts in order to assess future needs and risks globally.
"We are facing a challenge of enormous proportions," Diouf said.
"We must mobilize 30 billion dollars a year in order to double food production so as to feed a world population of nine billion in 2050."
He added that the figure was nevertheless modest compared to the 1,204 billion dollars spent across the world on the arms trade.
"The time has come for the international community to unite in the face of the world food crisis."
"In this connection, as president of the G8 next year, Italy bears a historic responsibility," Diouf said.
The director-general of the Rome-based organization thanked Italy for its financial contributions over the last six years in the fight against hunger.
Italy has paid some 87 million euros (1 euro=1.4152 U.S. dollars) into FAO's Food Security Trust Fund, financing 29 projects in 41 countries plus 15 regional projects in the Caribbean Community and Common Market and another 15 in Small Island Developing States, according to Italian News Agency ANSA.
"Italy's contributions made it one of the largest contributors to the FAO's Trust Funds in 2008," he said.
Diouf blamed soaring food prices for the massive increase in the number of people suffering from hunger, which has risen by 75 million to 925 million since last year.
He warned that although bumper cereal harvests were expected for 2008 prices were unlikely to drop over the next few years, leaving the world's poorest countries at risk.