Kevin Rudd has slammed the UN food agency for failing to do enough for food security and warned that fears around a repeat of the 2007-08 food crisis are justified.
The former Prime Minister, who was infamously ousted by the Labor party in 2010 in favour of Julia Gillard, and then became Foreign Minister, has always had a particular focus on international affairs.
He told a conference in Hong Kong yesterday that the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), needs to provide effective advice, rather than just release "another set of reports".
"The fact that we're having this kind of conference is an indictment of the failure of the FAO," he told the meeting – titled Feeding the world: Asia's Prospect of Plenty – which was organised by The Economist magazine,” he said.
"The execution of its mandate, which is food security, must now be done.
"A practical program against the billions of people who are hungry in the world today needs to be done – not another set of reports, not another set of committees.
“Action, action, action," he told reporters later.
In September last year, when he was Foreign Minister, Rudd was warning of similar food crises, saying wars and political uproar could become a reality if Western counties don’t address global food security.
Rudd said then that food security to be on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth the following month, as well as the G20 summit in Cairns last November.
He also called then for a push for trade liberalisation to provide access to give poor African countries access to European and US markets.
Earlier this month the FAO called for "swift, coordinated international action" to deal with the increased cost of maize, wheat and soybean, which has sparked fears of another food crisis.
While there was plenty of joking about the “tragedy” of a shortage of bacon as a result of the US droughts, the unseasonable weather has actually already created immense problems with the availability of foods that could have flow-on effects for some time.
And it’s not just in the US, as low monsoon rainfall in India led the FAO to cut its global 2012 rice output forecast.
The UN estimates that the world population will increase by two billion by 2050.
Asia will account for half the increase, and with a rising middle class that will demand better food, Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged farmers and suppliers to embrace the population increase and become the “Asian foodbowl.”
Farmers and agricultural experts slammed the suggestions, saying current regulations are hindering the industry, not helping it, and significant changes would have to be made make the Asia an export possibility the government wants.
"Hunger is the world's most challenging problem," UN World Food Programme China director Brett Rierson said.
"There is a common perception that hunger is an African problem, but two-thirds of them are from Asia so hunger is here in Asia," he said.