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UN in Rome debates easing global food prices

ROME -- The international community is gathering in Italy for World Food Day on Tuesday with a round of U.N.-hosted talks on how to keep global food prices in check and help prevent future commodity market crises.

“Food prices are too volatile and are dangerously high,” Olivier De Schutter, the U.N.'s rapporteur on the right to food, said ahead of the meeting.

De Schutter called for “immediate” action to help stabilize prices.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is holding a week-long meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, which is made up of U.N. officials, farming experts and civil society representatives.

The latest U.N. data from earlier this month shows some 870 million people — around one in eight people in the world — are starving or under-nourished.

That figure is considerably down from the 1990s when there were a billion hungry but still “far too high,” according to FAO chief Jose Graziano da Silva.

There have also been market tensions this year after top producers like Europe, Russia and the Black Sea region revised down production forecasts, even though a crisis in the United States due to the drought never materialized.

Global food prices rose by 1.4 percent in September after holding steady for two months as cereals, meat and dairy prices climbed, according to FAO's Food Price Index, which is still far off the record it reached in February 2011.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll will host talks on the sidelines of World Food Day on Tuesday to focus on prices and at least 36 ministers are expected to attend, a French official source told AFP.

The talks will focus on three issues: “transparency of the market, limiting price volatility and the possibility of creating and managing stocks in the most vulnerable countries,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

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