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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM announces oil-food equation hurting poor

PM announces oil-food equation hurting poor

PM announces oil-food equation hurting poor

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Women buy meat at a market in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Prime Minister Hun Sen blamed rising food prices on high fuel prices during a speech yesterday. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday blamed soaring food prices on fuel prices set by oil cartels like OPEC, appealing to oil-producing countries to pay attention to the connection between food security and energy.

Cambodia imports 100 per cent of its oil, and the majority of agriculture production is dependent on fuel, he said, expressing concern over recent data that showed 80 per cent of food producers in Cambodia would increase prices in order to match jumps in fuel costs.

“If we increase food prices to balance with fuel prices, it would cause people to die. This is a big issue,” said Hun Sen at the opening of the Food Security and Nutrition Seminar, hosted by the government in partnership with the UN, USAID and NGO Caritas.

Speaking to approximately 500 representatives from the government and civil society, the premier said oil-producing countries had never considered how to bring food and energy security into harmony.

“This is an initiative of the Cambodian Prime Minister, and I will appeal to the world to pay strong attention to make food and energy security in harmony through food and fuel prices.

“I think that through the representatives of the FAO and [the World Food Programme] these initiatives should be taken up for debate,” he said.

Cambodia is among the 20 worst countries globally for child malnutrition, according to a fact sheet released at the seminar that labels it “one of the biggest health problems that Cambodia is currently facing”.

Despite successes in reducing maternal and under-five mortality, improvements in nutrition have stagnated in the past five years, said Council for Agricultural and Rural Development chairperson and deputy prime minister Yim Chhay Ly in a press release.

WFP country director Jean-Pierre de Margerie agreed certain nutrition indicators had stalled, likely due to high food prices that hit the country in 2007 and 2008.

“The poor spend their majority of income on food, so they are vulnerable to fluctuations in food prices,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected]

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