July 3, 2008

G-8 to Urge Food-Export Ban Restraint

By The Yomiuri Shimbun

Jul. 1--TOKYO -- The upcoming Group of Eight summit meeting will urge several countries, including some developing nations, that have restricted farm product exports to exercise voluntary restraint in doing so, government sources said Tuesday.

The request will be made in the form of a special document about the ongoing food crisis to be issued during the summit.

The document, which the G-8 major nations are set to adopt at the annual gathering, to take place this year in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, will also call for the creation of a timetable for improving the agricultural productivity of African countries.

The three-day G-8 meeting, which will open at a lakeside resort hotel on Monday, will be the first to prepare an independent document focusing on the food problem, according to the sources.

The special document reflects the desire of G-8 members to halt a sharp rise in food prices worldwide by showing the international community that these major nations are determined to overcome the current food crisis from both short- and long-term perspectives.

More than 10 countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, India and Argentina, have restricted food exports in recent months.

"Export controls introduced by developing countries have sparked widespread concerns about the supply of food, contributing to the surge in food prices," a source familiar with the global food market said.

The planned G-8 document on the food crisis will follow a similar declaration issued at a global food summit organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome in early June. However, the wording in the FAO document was much more vague when it came to urging world food exporters to eliminate export restrictions on foodstuffs.

"We will strive to ensure that food, agricultural trade and overall trade policies are conducive to ensuring food security for all. For this purpose, we reaffirm the need to minimize the use of restrictive measures that could increase the volatility of international prices," the FAO declaration said.

Russia is the only G-8 nation that has restricted food exports. Food items subject to control include wheat and barley.

According to the sources, the G-8 nations are working to coordinate opinions on a plan to urge global food exporters to eliminate and relax restrictions in a manner that Russia will not oppose.

The special document will also incorporate measures to aid developing countries -- particularly those in Africa -- in their efforts to increase agricultural productivity. To ensure steady progress in assisting African nations in this respect, the document will include a timetable for G-8 assistance, according to the sources.

Specific plans proposed for such a timetable may include one suggested by Japan at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama in late May to help African countries double their rice production in the decade to come, the sources said.

The special document will also emphasize the need to boost the development of methods for producing biofuels by making use of timber from trees that have been thinned and the stems of crops.


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