G20: Agriculture Ministers meet to discuss food security
G20 AGRICULTURE Ministers are meeting in Paris today to discuss measures to address the problem of high food prices and market volatility.
The two-day summit is likely to see a tussle between supporters of French-led moves to impose tougher rules on commodity traders and those who see the stimulation of global food production as a priority.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire intend to use the summit to press for tighter controls and greater transparency in the agricultural commodity and financial markets.
Mr Sarkozy has made it clear he blames speculators on the high prices and volatility seen in the global food markets in recent years.
Among France’s key proposals is the establishment of an agricultural market database, run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to share key data on global stocks and production. It also wants greater global collaboration to avoid damaging unilateral moves like Russia’s 2010 export ban.
France is also proposing a number of restrictions on the financial markets, including limiting positions investors can take in commodities markets and creating an ‘identity card’ for traders who would have to identify themselves as ‘speculative’ or ‘”commercial’ depending on their main activities.
However, in the run up to the summit it has become evident that France could struggle to get full support for its proposals to regulate commodity speculators.
The UK, which will be represented by Defra Secretary Caroline Spelman, is understood to be unwilling to impose further regulation in the financial markets.
Mrs Spelman’s colleague, Farming Minister Jim Paice said last week that, while commodity speculation played a part in market volatility, he did not believe the role of speculators in the recent high global food prices was as profound as Mr Sarkozy was making out. He said market fundamentals ultimately determined the state of the market.
Argentine Agricultural Minister Julian Dominguez has said Argentina is keen to ‘emphasise the importance of stimulating production growth rather than controlling it in contrast to the French proposal to regulate financial markets linked to raw materials’.
But the Russian Agriculture officials have been quoted as saying Moscow was ‘ready to give full support to the elaboration of a mechanism of financial regulation and control of the agricultural markets’.
Another contentious issue to be discussed will be biofuels, following a report by the World Bank and the FAO calling for the removal of policies that subsidise biofuel production or consumption. Moves to curb biofuels are likely to be opposed by major producers like the US and Brazil.
Ahead of the summit a group of farming organisations from 66 countries signed a joint declaration urging G20 Ministers not to allow trade considerations to obscure the importance of food production in meeting global food security.