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Third world finds slim pickingsat food parley

The deteriorating food situation in third-world nations is not falling on deaf ears in the developed world, but there is not exactly a big rush to alleviate it, either.

A recent conference of the 36-member World Food Council in Arusha, Tanzania, was intended to flash a warning light to the Western world. The message: that half a billion people in the poorer countries -- especially in Africa -- already were in the hunger line.

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But the conference left the hungry nations frustrated and dissatisfied. Thousands of words were poured out in speeches and conference documents, but there are little else.

The conference had nothing more to offer than "a handful of resolutions to the hungry millions of the developing countries," commented the Tanzanian government newspaper, the Daily News.

Several controversial plans aimed at easing third-world food shortages were modified or shelved by the council. Some delegates claimed their advocacy of a food contingency plan, a food aid convention, and food financing was in vain.

However, the conference did recommend storing food reserves near the world's hungriest countries so that help could be forthcoming more quickly.

The Arusha meeting was the sixth ministerial conference of the World Food Council, yet only two donors, Canada and Denmark, were represented at ministerial level. The only pledge of extra food cash came from Canada.

An ambitious and expensive plan to set up a 12-million-ton grain reserve to be built near potential famine areas was opposed by Western grain producers. They said it should be left to the International Wheat Council, whose planned international wheat agreement has not yet materialized.

Many third-world countries had demanded the immediate establishment of such a grain reserve, but all the conference could produce was "serious consideration" of ways and means of "establishing a contingency reserve if a wheat agreement is not concluded."

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