G20 agrees measures to tackle high global food prices

A farmer drying rice in Vietnam
Image caption Global food prices have hit all-time highs over the past year

Agriculture ministers from the G20 group of nations have agreed a series of measures they hope will reduce food price volatility and boost supplies.

In a communique following a two day meeting in Paris ministers said they would adopt a new collective rapid response system to help calm any spikes in prices.

They have also agreed to look at new rules to tackle food price speculation.

However, it remains to be seen whether these will be adopted.

This is because any moves to target speculators in the food commodity markets will have to be agreed by G20 finance ministers at a later date.

France had led the call for tough action on speculation, while the UK has instead said that the focus should be on better aligning supply and demand of food products.

'Historic union'

Other polices agreed at the meeting include the creation of a new international agricultural market information system to improve access to food output statistics.

In addition, the G20 has agreed to exclude humanitarian aid from export restrictions, and explore the implementation of humanitarian food aid stocks.

Regarding biofuels agriculture ministers said they recognised the need for further analysis of the issue.

There is controversy over whether biofuels contribute to higher fuel prices by using up land that otherwise could grow crops for human consumption.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the agreement "an historic union of resolve in combating the pressing challenges of hunger and food price volatility confronting our world."

However, the French branch of charity Oxfam was much less complementary, saying the G20's agreed measures were "very far from the massive surgery needed to attack the food crisis".

Global food prices have hit all-time highs over the past year.

The World Bank says that since June last year, rising and volatile food prices have led to an estimated 44 million more people living in poverty, defined under $1.25 (£0.77) a day.

It estimates that there are close to one billion hungry people worldwide.

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