Image: Chronic hunger, Haiti
Ariana Cubillos  /  AP file
A woman feds a girl with a porridge-like mix of corn, soy, salt and sugar at a center run by the French food aid group Action Contre la Faim in Gonaives, Haiti, in January.
updated 5/6/2009 5:03:56 PM ET 2009-05-06T21:03:56

The number of hungry people in the world could soon hit a record 1 billion, despite a recent drop in food prices, the U.N. food aid organization said Wednesday.

The recent financial crisis, though it has helped bring global food prices down, has also led to falling trade and lower development aid, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's general director, Jacques Diouf.

As a result of the crisis, an additional 104 million people were likely to go hungry this year — meaning they receive fewer than 1,800 calories a day, Diouf told reporters after a two-day meeting in Paris between the FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"We have never seen so many hungry people in the world," Diouf said.

The number of people considered hungry increased last year as well, by 40 million, and in 2007, when 75 million more people joined the ranks, Diouf said.

If the projection for 2009 proves accurate, that would mean that approximately 1 billion people — or roughly one-sixth of the world's population — will hungry by the end of the year, he said.

High food prices
Despite a 30 percent drop in food prices from June 2008, overall food prices still remain above 2006 levels, Diouf said.

He noted that in the developing world, food prices have dropped only 12 percent to 14 percent since June 2008.

Surveys show that prices of basic staple foods in many poor countries have barely registered any drop.

Diouf and other experts at Wednesday's conference called for more development aid to be spent on agriculture, saying it was crucial to preventing acute food shortages.

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