from a Special Correspondent in Rome THE 36-nation World Food Council wound up a weeklong inaugural discussion of food problems on a note of optimism that was belied by statistics and political undertones.
"Encouraging progress of the international fund" was noted, but none the less, a shortfall of more than 1 million tons of grain exists in the 10-million minimum set by the World Food Conference which met here last November.
Potential donors are proving reluctant to contribute, and United Kingdom delegate John Grant, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Overseas Development, said bluntly that the Common Market countries had "lamentably failed to respond to the challenge of our times for immediate aid to the most desperately hungry." Representatives of the socalled "Group of 77", comprising the leading developing countries of the world, sought unsuccessfully to disrupt the conference and called for the ousting of American and proAmerican members of the secretariat. They were supported by the Soviet Union. As one Italian minister, who asked his name to be withheld, said alter the meeting: "Russia .plants its wheat in the Ukraine and harvests it in the United States."
The council President Mr Sayed A. Marei of Egypt stated: "It is very disappointing that some major grain-producing countries have failed to indicate their willingness to help us meet our target of 10 million tons for the coming year." He refused to reply when asked if he meant the Soviet Union.
But Mr Marei tempered his disappointment by saying that the council had made progress in a number of important areas and had broken new ground in rallying worldwide support for the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
Executive Director John Hannah of America said that so far only 8.9 million tons of grain had been donated, two-thirds by the United States, adding: "We still hope that by the end of July at the latest the target of 10 million tons will have been met."
Mr Hannah also reported on steps to set up a $1,000m (about /455m) international fund to Fight hunger. "We hope we will get this fund off the ground by January 1976," he said.
But a 200-page survey on the "State of Food" by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation painted a bleak picture. "There are virtually no grain reserves left in exporting countries."
This FAP report was supported by Charles W. Robinson, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in Washington. "We are faced with the fact that developing countries now import 25 million tons of grain annually — with the prospect that this will more than triple in the next 10 years if present production and population trends continue."
While slightly gloomy over the future, Mr Robinson was rosy over needs for 1975. "In the United States we now expect a winter crop more than 6 million tons greater than last year.
"There should be no difficulty for exporting countries to have available over the next six months the additional 6 to 7 million tons of grain about which concern has been expressed at this meeting."