DAVOS-UPDATE 1-Slowdown won't affect food prices-UN agency

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DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Economic slowdown and possible recession in the United States and other rich countries will not affect the rising trend in food prices, the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Thursday.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told Reuters the fundamentals that have pushed food prices to records in recent months -- climate change, emerging country demand, demand for biofuels and population growth -- remained in place. “In the short term I believe that the trend in food prices will be maintained because they are due to fundamental elements that have not changed,” Diouf said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos.

“Even if there’s a slowdown in the economy and we see people reducing their consumption it certainly won’t be on food, it will certainly go to other commodities before it reaches food.”

Far from demand for food in emerging markets easing, there was food inflation in those countries, he said.

Diouf said it was understandable some countries were deterring food exports through duties or quantitative restrictions, as they sought to ensure food security and prevent social problems.

But taken together such moves would compound the global problem, he said.

That is why the FAO decided in June last year to call a conference of all its 192 members to look at the problem collectively and consider the contributing factors such as climate change and energy demand.

The conference will be held on June 3-5 this year, he said.

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