Food security, biofuels top G8 agriculture talks

April 19th, 2009 - 12:28 am ICT by IANS  

Cison di Valmarino (Italy), April 18 (DPA) Ensuring global food security, and the role played by biofuels in curbing harmful climate change dominated talks Saturday during the first-ever meeting of agriculture ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) countries.
During the first two sessions of talks, which are scheduled to run until April 20, ministers from the world’s most powerful economies shared the view that “something must be done” to safeguard food supplies threatened by sudden price hikes and speculation, Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that 2009 could witness price hikes similar to those in 2008 which triggered food riots in dozens of countries.

But while the option to increase food stocks to avert such threats was discussed, there was “no confirmation” that a final declaration at the end of the three-day meeting would contain specific measures to achieve this, Zaia said.

Zaia, whose country currently holds the G8 presidency, held an afternoon briefing for reporters on the meeting which is being held in Cison Valmarino near the northeastern Italian city of Treviso.

G8 nations “were not going to stop trying” to achieve the UN goal of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015, said German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner, who also spoke to reporters during an interval in discussions.

Rather than seeking to introduce “general rules”, to achieve this, what was needed were specific solutions to ensure greater food production. These included access to land, water and strengthening “development cooperation” between rich and poor nations, Aigner said.

In an expanded evening session, the G8 agriculture ministers were scheduled to be joined by counterparts from the so-called G5 emerging economies Brazil, India, Mexico, China - as well as those from Argentina, Egypt and Mexico.

The agriculture minister of one of the G5 nations, South Africa, Lulama Xingwana did not travel to Italy for the meeting because of commitments involving her country’s general elections scheduled for April 22, a South African government official said.

Earlier in the day Zaia referred to the potentially divisive issue of protectionism a strong undercurrent in relations between G8 nations at a time of global economic downturn.

A policy document, prepared by the Italian presidency ahead of the talks had mentioned calls for “immediate interventions” aimed at doubling global agriculture production by 2050 to ensure that the world’s fast-growing population have enough to eat.

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