The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said yesterday that it was allocating US$500 million to tackle skyrocketing food costs in the region.
The Manila-based bank also pledged to double lending to US$2 billion for agriculture next year.
ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda announced the financial support during the bank’s annual meeting in Madrid.
“The situation demands early responses by governments with targeted programs that provide direct assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable as well as policy measures that support open trade and distribution of basic commodities across the region,” Kuroda said.
This year, the bank is planning to lend US$1 billion to the agricultural sector and would double that next year.
In addition, the bank plans to provide up to US$500 million for the hardest-hit countries in the Asia Pacific for safety nets to protect the poor and vulnerable in the face of rising food prices.
“This will help governments alleviate the fiscal burden so that they can bring food to the table of the vulnerable, poor and needy,” Kuroda said.
“These resources could also be used to import food grains and agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers,” he added.
More than 1 billion people have been seriously affected by the surge in food prices in the Asia Pacific, where food expenditures account for 60 percent of total expenditures.
Food and energy together account for more than 75 percent of total spending by the poor in the region, the bank said.
In related news, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said Central American countries needed to draft a plan to confront a looming food crisis as a group.
Ortega said the region needed to finance farming, ensure basic food supplies and form a production and marketing alliance to promote local farm goods.
Central American farmers depend on imported oil, fertilizer and seeds to operate. But recent increases in oil and grain prices could make things harder in a region where alnutrition is already common.
Ortega spoke at rally in Managua on Tuesday alongside Bolivian President Evo Morales. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez canceled his appearance after falling ill with a cold.