Asian Development Bank promises food relief

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

MADRID, May 3, 2008 (AFP) – The Asian Development Bank on Saturday promised financial help for nations fighting the global food price crisis and attacked plans for a rice cartel. Loans will help countries subsidise the price of food staples for the poor, ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said on the first day of the banks four-day annual general meeting in Madrid.

“The amount depends on the requests from the affected countries,” he told a news conference. “Possible total lending could be sizeable but not enormous.”

The multinational lender will also provide two billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) in loans in 2008 and 2009 to finance agriculture infrastructure projects such as rural roads and irrigation systems to help boost farm output.

“Asia has a huge population with limited land for farming and a limited water supply so agriculture yields must be increased over time,” Kuroda said.

Prices for the benchmark Thai variety of rice, a food stable across much of Asia, are at about 1,000 dollars a tonne, up threefold from the last ADB annual meeting in Japan one year ago.

The jump in food prices is fuelling inflation globally and the ADB predicted it would hit 5.1