European and Japanese leaders said urgent action was needed to tackle soaring food prices, which threaten to increase poverty and damage the world economy. The World Food Program called the crisis a "silent tsunami."
The price of rice, among other things, has soared this year
Top EU leaders, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, voiced their worries about the prices of food, oil and other commodities on Wednesday, April 23.
The World Food Program said many more people are now threatend by hunger
"Summit leaders noted with strong concern the trends of high prices of natural resources and commodities, in particular, prices of food and oil, which could slow down the growth in [the] global economy and have negative effects on developed and developing countries," they said in a joint statement following their summit in Tokyo. The statement was also signed by Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.
The world leaders also noted the acute effects soaring prices are having on developing nations' attempts to overcome poverty.
Many now on verge of hunger
The United Nations' World Food Program has called rising food prices a "silent tsunami" that has pushed an extra 100 million people to the brink of hunger.
"This is the new face of hunger -- the millions of people who were not in the 'urgent hunger' category six months ago but now are," WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a statement on Tuesday.
Many countries rely on food aid, like Somalia here, in 2005
Also on Tuesday, the European Commission announced it would offer another 117.25 million euros ($185.6 million) in food aid to lessen the impact of rising food prices on the world's most vulnerable people. That announcement came after the commission's biggest food aid package -- 160 million euros -- was pledged in March.
Barroso said a significant drop in international development aid for a second straight year in 2007 exacerbated the problem.
"When you add to this negative developments that we have watched recently -- the recent elements concerning food prices -- we have reasons to be sincerely concerned," Barroso told reporters in Tokyo.
He added that the global community needed to be mobilized to renew their commitments of development aid, particularly for Africa.
Immense food price hikes
Food prices have risen sharply since the end of 2007, triggered in part by a growing population, increasing consumption in emerging economies such as China and India, more frequent and intense droughts and floods due to climate change, and by the popularity of biofuels as oil prices soar.
Richer nations are also feeling the food price squeeze
High prices for stples, such as rice, have led to riots and protests in countries from Haiti to Indonesia.
Japan, which imports more than half its food, is particularly concerned about spiraling food prices and said it would place the issue on the agenda at the summit of the Group of Eight rich nations, which it will host in July.
Fukuda said he and EU leaders had also agreed to raise the food issue before the World Trade Organization.
"Convergence" on climate protection
Barroso, Fukuda and Slovenia's Jansa also focused their attention on the climate during their talks in Tokyo, with the EU and Japan agreeing that a "highly ambitious and binding international approach" was needed to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
The EU and Japan didn't reach a binding deal to fight climate change
Barroso called the joint statement a "convergence" in stances taken by the EU and Japan.
"What we reached today was very important," Barroso said. "There must be binding targets."
However, the Japan-EU statement did not announce specific figures for binding cuts of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
The EU has proposed global emission reductions of 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Japan, like the United States, has said it is too early to fix specific numbers for future emission cuts. After criticism from environmentalists, Tokyo announced earlier this year that it would define its own national target for emissions reductions after 2012.