January 23, 2011

Country Leaders Warn Of Riots Due To Food Price Inflation

Agriculture ministers from Europe, Africa and Canada warned on Saturday of riots and social unrest if action is not swiftly taken to improve food security and tackle price hikes.

The ministers from Germany, France, Poland, Ukraine, Morocco, Kenya and Canada were unanimous on the causes and consequences of food shortages, which are pushing prices up.  The seven agriculture ministers agreed that renewing the threats of social instability and the sort of food riots witnessed in Mozambique, Egypt and other places last year.

"We will see them again in 2011 and 2012 if we don't rapid take the necessary decisions together," warned French minister Bruno Le Maire.

Aziz Akhenouch, the French ministers' Moroccan counterpart, denounced the "rocketing prices" which threaten purchasing power as well as political stability in his country.  Morocco is a major wheat importer and saw prices double last year.

The agreement at the Green Week meeting in the German capital on helping to tackle the problem included increased production with help from higher yields, and trade stimulation while fighting against the speculators who ramp up the market.

Kenyan farm minister Sally Jepngetich Kosgey said that "It is important to open borders," for certain products.

"Trade is part of the solution, not the problem," Pascal Lamy, the World Trade Organization's director general, told AFP.

However, the ministers found they did not agree on questions of further opening borders for agriculture products.

"Everyone wants first and foremost to support their own infrastructure, and trade with others comes after that" said Canada's minister Gerry Ritz.

There were more consensuses on the need to tackle the market speculators who inflame the prices.

"There is total uncertainty today," on the available volumes of foodstuffs, Le Maire told AFP.

"It's not normal that there is so little information," he added, calling for more transparency to stabilize the market.