Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

World Food Prices Close to 2008 Crisis Levels

A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization analyzing food price trends in the month of September contains some worrying results. “World food prices rose in September and are seen remaining close to levels reached during the 2008 food crisis, the United Nations’ food agency said on Thursday, while cutting its forecast for global cereal output. The worst drought in more than 50 years in the United States sent corn and soybean prices to record highs over the summer, and, coupled with drought in Russia and other Black Sea exporting countries, raised fears of a renewed crisis. Grains prices have retreated in recent weeks due to rapid harvest progress and concerns about weak demand in a slowing global economy. But the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) price index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, rose 1.4 percent to an average of 216 points in September after remaining stable at 213 points in August. The rise reflected mainly higher dairy and meat prices, with more contained increases for cereals, it said. ‘Prices are remaining high… prices are sustained, it’s highly unlikely we will see a normalisation of prices anytime soon,’ FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters in a telephone interview” (Reuters http://bit.ly/QLVnTw)

France Pushes Security Council Resolution On Mali Intervention

The march toward international intervention in Northern Mali took a step forward at the UN yesterday. “France announced Thursday it will circulate a draft U.N. resolution aimed at stepping up pressure on Mali’s government and its West African neighbors to agree quickly on a workable military plan to oust Islamic militants who seized the north and are turning it into a terrorist hub. France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said his government envisages a two-stage plan – an initial resolution to encourage a political and military response to the crisis in Mali followed by a second resolution that would give U.N. Security Council authorization to an African intervention force. ‘We need concrete elements. We have been waiting for these elements for a few months,’ Araud told reporters after a closed council meeting on the Mali crisis. ‘So as the Security Council we are trying to build the momentum that so far has been lacking.’ A meeting slated for Oct. 19 in Mali’s capital, Bamako, will bring together the African Union, the West African regional group ECOWAS, the U.N. and other key actors. After that, Araud said he hoped the Security Council will have enough detailed information about plans for a military intervention to adopt a resolution giving it a green light.” (HuffPo http://huff.to/QM8K63)

Security Council Condemns Syrian Attack in Turkey. Urges Restraint. Turkey Pounds Syrian Targets

After tense negotiations, the Security Council agreed to a relatively weak statement on the recent cross border violence between Syria and Turkey. In the meantime, Turkey is stepping up its retaliatory strikes inside Syria. “Turkey stepped up retaliatory artillery strikes on a Syrian border town on Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers, while its parliament approved further military action in the event of another spillover of the Syrian conflict. Seeking to unwind the most serious cross-border escalation in its 18-month-old crackdown on dissent, Damascus apologized through the United Nations for shelling which killed five civilians in southeast Turkey on Wednesday and said it would not happen again, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said. Syria’s staunch ally Russia said it had received assurances from Damascus that the mortar strike had been a tragic accident. But Turkey’s government said “aggressive action” against its territory by Syria’s military had become a serious threat to its national security and parliament approved the deployment of Turkish troops beyond its borders if needed. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the fundamental aim of parliament’s mandate was as a deterrent. (Reuters http://reut.rs/QLYIln)

Oxfam to World Bank: Freeze Land Investments

Out of worry that the World Bank may be fueling harmful “land grabbing” practices, Oxfam is calling on the bank to halt certain kinds of investments. “Oxfam urged Jim Yong Kim, the lender’s new president, to announce a six-month moratorium on land investments by the bank at meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Tokyo next week. But senior bank officials said it would be a mistake to suspend the World Bank’s involvement at a time when global food prices are rising and there is growing interest by foreign investors in buying farmland in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The 2008-2009 global food price crisis prompted a scramble for land in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and widespread fears of land grabbing. Madagascar’s president was toppled in 2009 after he negotiated a deal with South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics to lease half the island’s arable land to grow food and ship it to Asia. The World Bank has long argued that Africa needs more investments in agriculture that would not only help modernize farming practices but also create jobs and new markets for local farmers. The lender has boosted its investment in agriculture to $9.5 billion a year from $2.5 billion annually in 2008.” (Reuters http://bit.ly/QLUBpo)