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World

World agriculture ministers descend on Italy for food summit

The world's top farm policymakers hope to come up with a common strategy to fight hunger, as well as to boost output and bolster food security at their meeting near Treviso.

Close-up of wheat

Supplies of wheat and other staples must be stabilized

"The Global Challenge to Reduce Food Emergency" is the title of the report the agriculture ministers of the G8 nations - that is, the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy - were given ahead of their meetings with ministers from the G5 (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa).

Starting Saturday in the town of Cison di Valmarino, near Treviso in northeastern Italy, that combined group of leaders will begin confronting the global challenge, determined to prove that the world does have the means to feed its hungry millions.

Since food prices skyrocketed in 2008, leading to riots and panic buying in some regions, the world has sought to boost farm output and food reserve stocks.

Some nations, such as India, instituted tight export controls on staples like wheat and rice. Others, like South Korea and Saudi Arabia, have bought land overseas to help grow food for their populations.

Prices have dropped off since last year but experts warn that they could take off again once the world economy starts recovering.

Looking ahead

The summit, which runs through Monday, aims to put in place some concrete proposals on food security that could be presented to G8 leaders at their summit in La Maddalena, Sardinia in July.

Among them is a proposed global grain reserve, meant to stabilize food supply in times of crisis and avoid price shocks, but details have yet to be worked out.

In addition to G8 and G5 leaders, agricultural ministers from Argentina, Australia and Egypt are expected at the talks, along with representatives from the African Union, the World Bank and other international institutions.

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