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Obama to unveil plan for helping African farmers

Ahead of the G-8 summit, President Obama will unveil a new public-private partnership with DuPont, Monsanto, and Cargill, and almost 20 companies from Africa, to help farmers build local markets and fight hunger.

By Andrew QuinnReuters / May 18, 2012

A Sudanese farmer prepares his land for irrigation on the banks of the river Nile in Khartoum. President Obama will unveil a $3 billion plan to help small farmers boost productivity in Africa.

REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh

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Washington

Buffeted by the euro zone crisis and distracted by political problems at home, the leaders of the world's industrial powers are turning to the private sector to help fight hunger and malnutrition for up to a billion people beset by shortages, droughts and rising food prices.

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President Barack Obama will announce a new public-private partnership program Friday morning, seeking to spur this weekend's summit of the wealthy Group of Eight to focus on market methods to boost production, particularly among hardscrabble small-scale farmers in Africa who may hold the key to improved world food supplies.

This year's meeting of the G8 - the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia - will focus on the economic headaches plaguing the world's richest countries, including worries over Greece, the future of the euro zone and proposals to tap emergency oil reserves to offset diminishing exports from sanctions-hit Iran.

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But US officials say the Obama administration also wants the G8 to take fresh steps to improve global food security, building on its 2009 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, which sought to mobilize $20 billion over three years to boost agricultural investments in poor countries.

Global food prices soared in 2008, which led to increased hunger, malnutrition and social unrest, highlighting the years of underinvestment in agriculture in developing countries.

They have remained high and volatile since, rising by 40 percent between June and December 2010 alone, while maize and wheat prices doubled during that period, raising the food bills of the world's poor countries.

Obama, who has made improving global food supplies a keystone of U.S. overseas development policy, is expected to announce a new initiative to improve nutrition for 50 million vulnerable people, primarily in Africa, over the next decade.

He will also announce a new partnership of agribusiness giants such as DuPont, Monsanto and Cargill, along with smaller companies including almost 20 from Africa, which will commit some $3 billion for projects to help farmers in the developing world build local markets and improve productivity.

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