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   If it smells like someone's cooking up something good, they just might be.  Chefs all over the metro area are getting ready for this weekend's Taste of St. Louis.  

   This year's event will feature 46 restaurants, bakeries and caterers offering dishes for $2 to $7 each.  

   Besides edible offerings, the event features a Culinary show, musical performances and a hot sauce showcase.  More than 400-thousand people turned out for last year's Taste.  

   This year's event kicks off at Soldier's Memorial in downtown St. Louis Friday at 4:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday.  

   Information about festival hours, parking, featured restaurants and special presentations can be found on the TasteSTL website.

Published in Around Town

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Aid workers must be given access if parts of Syria come under a cease-fire to allow chemical weapons experts to try to bring the country's stockpile under international control, the head of the U.N.'s World Food Program said.

   Ertharin Cousin told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that an agreement under discussion now envisions a cessation of hostilities so chemical experts can travel across the country, including to many conflict areas where WFP and other humanitarian workers have been unable to bring in desperately needed aid.

   "So this is an opportunity for us to hopefully overcome the hurdle that today we've been unable to achieve," Cousin said.

   The United States and Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to give up its chemical weapons but U.N. diplomats say they are at odds on details of a U.N. Security Council resolution spelling out how it should be done and the possible consequences if Syria doesn't comply.

   Cousin urged the international community to demand that the Security Council make any cease-fire a broad one.

   "When you talk about a cessation of hostilities to allow access for the chemical (weapons) workers, that cessation in hostilities should also allow access for humanitarian workers," she said.

   WFP is currently feeding 3 million people inside Syria and 1.2 million in neighboring countries. Cousin said the goal is to step up supplies so that 4 million internally displaced people and 1.5 million refugees are getting food by the end of October.

   While the agency is working in all 14 Syrian governorates, Cousin said there are pockets in many of them that humanitarian workers can't reach because of fighting.

   The opposition Syrian National Coalition accused government forces Monday of tightening their siege during the past month in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where U.N. inspectors reported that chemical weapons were used in an Aug. 21 attack.

   "Assad's forces are starving people to death in those areas," the coalition claimed. "The specter of famine looms in the horizon as more than 2 million people remain under siege."

   Cousin said WFP hasn't had access to an opposition-controlled area in Ghouta called Muhammadiyah, which is besieged by government forces. She also pointed to an area in the Kurdish-dominated Hasaka region in the northeast controlled by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and an opposition-controlled area on the outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo where the agency has had trouble operating.

   Cousin said the bullets that have been fired at WFP trucks trying to get into Ghouta and other conflict areas "don't say 'I came from the regime' or 'I came from the opposition.'"

   "The reality of it is there's enough complicity to go around," she said.

   WFP has tried to identify third party monitors who can access these difficult areas, Cousin said.

   "The challenge is the same — getting third party monitors and food into these areas," she said. "So it's an awful Catch-22. You need to get the monitors in so you can justify the access that is necessary to get food in."

   As Syrians prepare to face their third winter in conflict, thousands including women, children and seniors, need food, medicine, blankets and other humanitarian aid, she said.

   "So we must demand that all the parties ... provide access to humanitarians," Cousin stressed, adding that she has been talking to prime ministers, foreign ministers and anyone else with influence on the five permanent Security Council members who hold the key to the contents of the chemical weapons resolution.

   She said WFP's traditional donors — the U.S., U.K., European Union, Germany and Canada — have been generous with money to support the massive feeding program in Syria, which is costing $30 million a week. But more help is needed.

   "We need the entire global community, which means we need Saudi Arabia, we need China" and others, Cousin said.

   She said donor fatigue is a concern.

   "What worries me more than the fact that there's not a bottomless pit is the escalating cost and ... the impact that that will have on other crises around the world," Cousin said. "The problems in Somalia, the Sahel, Yemen, didn't disappear because the problems in Syria are increasing. What we can't afford is to prioritize one hungry child over another."

Published in National News

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A coalition of farm and food safety groups wants federal regulators to quash the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese conglomerate in what would be the largest such takeover of a U.S. business.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the 17 groups are asking the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to oppose the pork processor's sale to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.

The groups include the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Food and Water Watch, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Nebraska Farmers Union.

The federal committee reviews sales of American companies to foreign interests.

Coalition members say the deal could weaken domestic food safety, cause economic damage in rural communities and harm national security.

Published in Local News

   BEIJING (AP) — Rising global food demand will push up prices 10 to 40 percent over the coming decade and governments need to boost investment to increase farm production, a forecast by two international agencies said Thursday.

   Growth in food production has slowed over the past decade even as rising incomes in developing countries boosted consumption, said the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

   "We're observing slower growth in production and productivity, and that is a concern," said Merritt Cluff, an FAO economist, at a news conference.

   Governments need to find ways to give farmers access to technology to increase output and get more of their crops to market, the agencies said in a report, "Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022."

   Prices are expected to rise 10 to 40 percent over the coming decade, with the cost of meat rising faster and that of grains more slowly, according to Ken Ash, director general of the OECD's trade and agriculture division.

   "We would urge governments around the world to begin to shift and to shift quickly from old-style policies to a greater focus on productivity and innovation," said Ash. "If we carry on blissfully as if nothing has changed in the world, there could be a problem."

   Higher prices will have their biggest impact in developing countries where some families spend up to 60 percent of their incomes on food, Cluff said.

   Investment in farming has fallen in recent decades due to a long-term decline in commodity prices and has yet to rebound despite price spikes since 2008, the agencies said. As a result, they said, annual production growth is forecast to slow to 1.5 percent compared with the past decade's 2.1 percent.

   "It's about a third less. That's a big difference," said Angel Gurria, the OECD secretary-general.

   The agencies urged governments to avoid interfering with market forces that can encourage farmers to produce more by raising prices for their goods.

   Food consumption in developing countries has grown by up to 30 percent a year over the past decade as incomes rose, while consumption in developed countries changed little, the agencies said.

   China's imports of meat and oilseeds are forecast to grow as its increasingly prosperous consumers spend more on food, the agencies said.

   Beijing has pursued self-sufficiency in production of rice, wheat and other grain but for soybeans and other oilseeds relies on imports from the United States, Brazil and other countries.

   Imports of oilseeds are expected to rise by 40 percent over the next 10 years, accounting for 59 percent of global trade in oilseeds, while dairy imports would rise 20 percent, the OECD and FAO said.

   China should remain self-sufficient in its main crops but for other products its sheer size "will keep markets on edge over the next decade," said Cluff.

Published in National News

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