Obama Calls for Africa Farm Aid as Companies Pledge $3 Billion

President Barack Obama today will call for a new phase of African farm aid as companies including Cargill Inc. pledge more than $3 billion in development to ease threats to global security posed by scarce nutrition.

Obama is announcing new investments in African agriculture in a speech in Washington -- his first addressing food security -- as a precursor to the weekend Group of Eight summit at Camp David, Maryland. The move shows continued commitment to boosting world food production as rising wealth in Asia drives consumption and the planet adds 2 billion people by 2050, said Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

You cannot have stability and security as long as regions and countries and communities are deeply food-insecure,” Shah said. Women and poorer farmers who grow crops on small plots remain a focus of U.S. development programs, he said. Companies have expertise and market skills governments can’t match, which are crucial to apply in Africa as the continent attracts new investment, he said.

World food supplies are being stressed by rising demand in emerging markets and increased use of crops in biofuels, leading to higher and more volatile prices, according to a U.S. intelligence report released last week. Import-dependent countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan are especially vulnerable to food unrest, the report said. Competition for water will fuel instability in South Asia and the Middle East, the U.S. said in March.

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