Food security tops first day of G8 agriculture summit | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 18.04.2009
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Food security tops first day of G8 agriculture summit

The need to ensure global food security and the potential for bio-fuels to curb climate change has dominated talks at the first-ever meeting of G8 agriculture ministers.

Hands reach up for rice

All agree something needs to be done to safeguard food supplies

Ministers from the world's eight most powerful nations met on Saturday, April 18, in Cison di Valmarino, near Treviso in northeastern Italy.

Italy's Agriculture Minister, Luca Zaia, whose country currently holds the G8 presidency, said all members agree "something must be done" to safeguard food supplies threatened by sudden price hikes and speculation.

Zaia told reporters the option to increase food stocks to avert such threats was discussed, but a final declaration with specific measures will only be made on Monday, at the end of the three-day meeting.

Germany's Agriculture Minister, Ilse Aigner, said G8 nations would push to come up with specific solutions to ensure greater food production worldwide. These include access to land, water and strengthening "development cooperation" between rich and poor nations, she said.

Food prices on the rise again

A UN peacekeeper watches Haitian locals

Food riots in Haiti turned deadly in 2008

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that 2009 could see large spikes in world food prices - similar to those in 2008 that triggered food riots in dozens of countries.

A policy document prepared ahead of the talks mentioned calls for "immediate interventions" - aimed at doubling global agriculture production by 2050.

Ahead of the summit, however, Zaia all but ruled out upfront financial aid.

"If you ask me whether we will come up with a package for agriculture at the end? No, it is not our competence," he said.

The G8 ministers met on Saturday evening with delegates from the so-called G5 emerging economies of Brazil, India, Mexico, China, as well as those from Argentina, Egypt and Mexico.

The aim of this meeting is to draw up a document to be put to G8 leaders at their next summit in July.

Demonstrators call for more financial aid

Farmers in Africa tend their field

Aid groups want G8 to commit financial support for farmers in developing nations

Anti-globalization activists and humanitarian groups have called on the G8 to do more to tackle hunger, which affects almost one billion people worldwide.

According to aid group Oxfam, agriculture aid from donor nations has fallen drastically in the past 25 years. In a document handed out to summit delegates, Oxfam noted that agriculture aid, which represented some 18 percent of development assistance in the eighties, was down to only 4 percent in 2007, totaling just under $6 billion.

The aid agency has accused industrialized nations of investing much more in their own agricultural sectors - stating an estimated $125 billion dollars was spent in 2008 in the form of direct payments to farmers.

The meeting has "an important role to play and we hope the concrete decisions will be taken (especially) in support of investment in developing countries," said Chris Leather from Oxfam.

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