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By Silvia Aloisi
ROME, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Only $3 billion of the $20 billion promised by a G8 summit over the next three years to boost agriculture in poor countries appears to be new money, diplomats and sources close to the matter said on Tuesday.
"In the $20 billion figure people have included all sorts of things, double counting stuff, putting in loans and grants: the real new money is $3 billion at best," one diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonimity.
Most of that new money, up to $2 billion, is coming from the United States, according to two sources, one on the donor side and one on the recipient side. A Group of Eight summit in Italy in July pledged $20 billion over three years to increase investment in agriculture in poor countries, in a major policy shift away from emergency food aid and towards longer-term strategies to fight world hunger.
The biggest single pledge at that summit — $3.5 billion — came from U.S. President Barack Obama, the main proponent of the new focus on agricultural development.
That shift will top the agenda this month at a food summit hosted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which aims to reach a broad consensus on the need to pump more money into agriculture to help poor countries feed themselves.
Anti-poverty campaigners however have warned that the pledges announced by rich countries were proving elusive.
"We found that no one could tell us which donors have committed how much towards the $20 billion or when the funds will be disbursed," ActionAid said in a report last month.
Even if the $20 billion materialised over the next three years, that would be a fraction of what is needed given the heavy impact of high food prices and the financial crisis on poor countries, according to experts at U.N. agencies. FAO, which says the number of hungry in the world has risen to 1.02 billion this year, calculates that $44 billion in official development aid should be spent annually to boost agriculture in developing countries.
Besides the amount of new money they are actually offering, donors also do not agree on who should manage the funds — a pressing topic for the FAO summit, to be attended by envoys from some 200 countries and international organisations.
Last September in Pittsburgh, the Group of 20 asked the World Bank to create a trust fund to manage the money but did not set a timeline for its establishment.
Some countries, particularly in Europe, oppose the idea, saying it would only create an extra bureaucratic layer.
"It would be expensive and would take time to set up, while there are U.N. agencies for this that are already in place. It would be the opposite of efficiency," a European diplomat said.