3 June,Rome:India has said there is no evidence to suggest that higher global food rates are originating from emerging economies and pointed out that additional demand for commodities such as maize for production of bio-fuels had the strongest impact on prices.
"FAO studies clearly show that recent high commodity prices have not originated from emerging economies," India’s Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said at the Rome Conference on World Food Security on Tuesday.
Refuting the West’s criticism that developing countries are contributing to the food crisis by consuming more, he said FAO studies also suggested that additional demand for maize for production of ethanol and rape seed for making bio diesel had the strongest impact on prices.
US President George Bush had said in May that prosperity in countries like India triggers increased demand for better nutrition which in turn leads to higher food prices.
Making a case for examining the use of bio-fuel as alternative fuel, Pawar said, "If we decided to convert all of the world’s grain into motor fuel, we will still need to use lots of oil and we would not be having anything to eat."
The Minister further said, "Conversion of foodgrain and oilseeds for producing bio-fuel prima facie appears to be fraught with food security concerns as is evident already."
However, several leaders, especially Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva, defended the use of bio-fuel by pointing out that "Biofuels are not the villain menacing food security in poor countries…we must, therefore, clear away the smoke screens raised by powerful lobbies which try to blame ethanol production for recent price inflation in food prices".
Relating the India story Pawar said, "Our experience in India gives me the confidence that the challenge (of rising food prices) may be met by the world community by increasing focus on the agriculture growth."
Noting India’s emphasis on farm sector has started giving dividends, he said, "We are going to have record production. The increase in prices in India has been moderate".
India has been feeding 17 percent of the world’s population on less than five percent of the world’s water and three percent of the arable land, he said.
India, Pawar said, managed a record foodgrain production of over 227 million tonne in 2007-08 with rice and wheat output rising to more than 175 million tonne.Procurement for public distribution has already touched 47 million tonne.
As regards prices, the Minister said increase in rice and wheat rates in India has remained at a moderate 7 and 8 percent against 161 and 76 percent elsewhere in the world.
"India has been able to manage food security in terms of availability and price level in a reasonably satisfactory manner." Pawar attributed India’s success in farm sector to the government’s efforts to make growth more inclusive and also ensure that everyone has access to food.
Pointing out that the global prices of foodgrain are likely to remain high, he said world community needs to look at them in proper perspective to evolve an right strategy.
Expressing India’s commitment to work with the global community in dealing with the food crisis, he said, "There is an urgent need to enhance investment in research in public sector and making it available to farmers."
The countries world over, Pawar, said, need to give agriculture the importance it deserves.
The Indian delegation at the FAO conference on food security also include Agriculture Secretary P K Mishra and newly-appointed Ambassador to Italy Arif Khan.
Global food summit opens with appeals for 30 bn dollars a year aid
A United Nations sponsored summit on the global food crisis has been set up in Rome with the FAO appealing to the world leaders to contribute 30 billion dollars a year to re-launch agriculture and avert future threats of conflicts over food.
Ban Ki Moon has called on leaders to lower export restrictions and import tariffs on food with immediate effect to avoid further hunger and malnutrition, which have caused riots in several
Third World countries.
"The world needs to produce more food,” he said in the opening speech at the World Food Security conference in Rome on Monday."While we must respond immediately to high food prices, it is important that our longer-term focus is on improving world security and remains so for some years,” Ban said.
Government leaders at the three-day summit are trying to cobble together solutions to ensure that the highest commodity prices in three decades don’t further swell the ranks of the world’s 860 million hungry people.
Shortages of staples such as rice threaten to fuel civil unrest, said Ban, who also wants an end to food-price subsidies, agricultural taxes and export bans.
A 60 percent increase in food prices since the beginning of 2007 has sparked riots in more than 30 countries including Cameroon and Egypt that depend on imported food.
The wealthiest nations pledged $6.3 billion in emergency aid last year, yet critics say that will do little unless accompanied by policies that promote greater output.
"The threats are obvious to us all,” Ban said.Analysts blame the diversion of crops to make biofuel, drought and natural disasters, fuel costs, and speculation.
The three day summit, organised by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization, follows massive food price rises over the past three years. Courtsey : DD NEWS