World leaders at an international summit in Rome Thursday vowed to reduce trade barriers and boost agricultural production to tackle the growing global food crisis.

Delegates from about 180 countries approved the final declaration after three days of wrangling at the UN summit.

Several Latin American countries expressed objections to the declaration. Cuban delegates said they were disappointed the document failed to address the long-standing U.S. embargo of the Communist island, and Argentinian delegates were unhappy over the language concerning trade barriers.

The UN summit's final declaration was delayed because of political squabbling, according to observers.

"This agreement was supposed to have been made 12 hours ago. These delegates are frankly trying to get planes home," the CBC's Adrienne Arsenault reported Thursday from Rome.

"This has really been several days of battling … [with] countries taking opportunities to take swipes at other nations on issues that sometimes seem to have very little to do with food."

Delegates to the summit, which included more than 40 heads of state and representatives from 183 countries, were at loggerheads over language condemning embargoes, said Nick Parsons, a spokesman for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which is hosting the three-day summit at its headquarters in Rome.

Promise to reduce world hunger made before

The final declaration urged help for farmers in poor countries who need seed and fertilizers in time for approaching planting season.

It also promised to increase investment in science and technology, continue studying biofuels and cut the number of the world's hungry by half by 2015.

Arsenault notes, however, that a similar world hunger reduction target was made in 1996 at another food summit.

"Between 1996 and now, we know that the number of the world's hungry has only increased, so they have a huge task ahead of them," she said.

Despite criticisms that the summit failed to produce long-term strategies for dealing with the crisis, the UN's World Food Program has said it is pleased with some significant pledges of emergency food aid made through the week, including a $1.5 billion US commitment made by the Islamic Investment Bank.

The summit aimed to develop strategies to halt skyrocketing food prices, which have risen an average of 83 per cent in the past three years and threaten to increase the number of the world's hungry by millions. An estimated 850 million people globally suffer from hunger, according to the FAO, most of them in developing countries.

With files from the Associated Press