WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann called on the agriculture ministers of the world's eight richest countries to ensure that more resources are made available to small farmers in order to avert a permanent food crisis.

"Averting a permanent food crisis will require more than doubling agricultural output. Who produces food is as important as how much is produced," said Rev. Beckmann. "Increasing production in the regions of greatest need, particularly in Africa and Asia, is the only means of getting beyond the endless cycle of food aid rescues."

The agriculture ministers of the G8 countries will meet for the first time in Treviso, Italy, April 18-20. On the top of their agenda is the world food crisis. A policy document for the meeting, leaked recently to The Financial Times, warns that food production globally must double by 2050 in order to feed the growing world population and deal with the effects of climate change. It says the food crisis "will become structural in only a few decades" if food production is not doubled.

To meet this challenge, Rev. Beckman emphasized that more resources should be made available to small subsistence farmers throughout the world. "Subsidizing corporate farmers who manage thousands of acres in Iowa will feed hungry people. But putting resources into the hands of small farmers can enable entire rural communities to thrive by providing jobs and generating income to stimulate local economies."

A 2005 study, Small Farms: Current Status and Key Trends by Oksana Nagayets, estimates that there may be 525 million small farms in the world, 33 million of them in Africa. The majority are less than five acres.

"The agriculture ministers must push G8 countries to move forward with the Doha round of trade negotiations," Rev. Beckmann said. "No amount of financial aid will help people escape poverty if the trade practices of G8 countries undercut, rather than reinforce, our financial commitments to global agriculture."

The G8 countries -- Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States -- control 60 percent of the world's gross domestic product with only 13 percent of the global population. During the meeting in Italy, they will be joined by the agriculture ministers of China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Australia and Egypt.

"Inviting these countries to the summit shows that the G8 countries know they can't fix the food crisis on their own," Rev. Beckmann said. However, he condemned the fact that civil society organizations will not be represented at the summit. "The only way that we will achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger in half by 2015, especially now, is by governments working together with civil society and the private sector."

Rev. Beckmann said the food crisis has pushed more than 130 million people into hunger, with women and children suffering the most. The financial crisis is further compounding the problems faced by poor and hungry people. "Our leaders must be bold and innovative in finding solutions to the food crises, and with climate change occurring more rapidly than previously anticipated, that urgency is unlikely to diminish," he added.

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation's decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.

SOURCE Bread for the World via PR Newswire.