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Official blames food crisis on export subsidies

The outgoing head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has said export subsidies are one of the main causes of the global food crisis.

Walter Fust said as well as providing emergency food aid, people had to tackle urgently the underlying causes of the crisis, such as agricultural subsidies, the growth in crops used for ethanol production, global warming and poor infrastructure.

Addressing foreign journalists in Geneva on Thursday, Fust said he feared that in many of the worst-affected countries the problems were structural.

He warned that industrialised countries’ export subsidies endangered developing countries’ agriculture and that pursuing such a policy was “dishonest, incoherent and destructive”.

Fust said the food crisis would put pressure on industrialised nations as part of ongoing agricultural negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

He also pointed the finger at the United Nations World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization, which were “responsible for avoiding structural crises” but had “done too little”.

Fust retires at the end of the month after 15 years in the job. He will be replaced by Martin Dahinden, former head of the Geneva-based International Centre for Humanitarian Demining.

The SDC, one of the largest units in the federal administration, has a staff of 620 and an annual budget of SFr1.3 billion ($1.3 billion).

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR