G20 farm ministers in Paris for talks on tackling food price hikes
Agriculture ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging economies were due to hold talks in Paris on Wednesday on how to curb food price volatility, DPA reported.
France, which is chairing the G20 this year, is pushing for increased regulation of commodity markets. But some members of the group, which represents around 90 per cent of the global economy, are resisting increased controls.
Spiralling prices for basic foods is exacerbating hunger in the developing world and fuelling social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.
One in seven people worldwide - 925 million people - go hungry, according to anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Consumers in rich countries are also feeling the pinch from steep food price inflation.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has blamed speculation for the price hikes and called for measures to rein in traders who dabble in foodstuffs.
France also wants countries to be more transparent about their food production and stock levels and to commit to maintaining their commodity exports, even in times of domestic crisis.
Russia last year temporarily suspended grain exports after drought and fires ate into its harvest. The move caused global wheat prices to soar.
French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said last week he was determined to resolve the agriculture issue this week - to clear it off the agenda of a G20 summit in November in Cannes.
But he admitted the divergences were "deep."
Britain and Australia are opposed to curbs on trading while India and China are reluctant to share information about their food output and stock levels.
Some G20 members, like Argentina, argue that the best way to combat price volatility is to stimulate food production in developing countries.
This is the first time agriculture is being discussed at the G20 level.
The two-day meeting kicks off Wednesday evening with an address by Sarkozy at the Elysee presidential palace and a working dinner.