As G8 leaders gathered in Japan Monday, the EU has proposed a 1 billion-euro ($1.57 billion) aid package for farmers in developing countries to respond to the global food crisis. But critics say it won't be enough.
Europe's aid would be directed towards farmers in developing countries
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the emergency farm aid package on Monday, July 7. Barroso is in Japan for this week's Group of Eight (G8) summit where the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations are expected to discuss soaring food prices.
"The EU really can give a boost to agriculture in developing countries," Barroso said in announcing the aid package, which he said represented "a strong and rapid agricultural supply response."
The money would come from unused European farm subsidies and would be mainly directed at Africa. It would bring the total agricultural aid provided by Europe to poor countries in 2008 and 2009 to 1.8 billion euros.
"The commission has moved fast to respond to the food price crisis and its impact in particular on developing countries," Barroso said.
Approval still needed
Barroso wants a fast response
Barroso's proposal will need to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the EU's member states, with commission officials expecting this procedure to be completed by November.
On Monday, Borroso also urged G8 leaders not to backtrack on their earlier pledge to raise the amount of annual aid given to the developing world by $50 billion by 2010. At least half of this extra money should go to Africa, they said at the time.
"We have to show that we are ready to deliver on our commitments," Barroso said, noting that Europe had provided 60 percent of worldwide development aid in 2007. "There is no going back."
Seen as a "positive step"
The EU has been criticized for the 40 billion euros in subsidies paid to European farmers. These subsidies damage poor countries' agricultural competitiveness, critics say.
"A lot of things about Europe's agricultural policies are not great for Africa, but this is a really positive step," Oliver Buston, a spokesman for the anti-poverty One Campaign, told Reuters news agency.
"We hope it will encourage EU member states to raise their own commitment bilaterally and also encourage the rest of the G8 to do more."
France , Italy reconsidering aid
The price of rice has skyrocketed in recent months
The World Bank has estimated that about $10 billion in emergency aid is needed to help poor countries deal with a global food and fuel price increase.
As for the $50 billion pledged by the G8 in 2005, a compliance panel found that the group will fall $40 billion short of its target if current spending plans continue.
Anti-poverty groups warned G8 countries against abandoning the previous aid promise. That would be a "betrayal of the promise," Oxfam said.
"We desperately need to see more money, and it has to be new money," Max Lawson of Oxfam told the DPA news agency. "The $50 billion are absolutely critical."
Activists accused France, Italy and Canada of skimping on aid to Africa. Oxfam praised Germany, Britain and the United States for raising their share of aid.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently announced plans to cut Italian development aid by 170 million euros annually for the next three years. Italy is due to take over the G8 presidency next year.