Developing world not behind grain crisis: Official
Updated: 2008-05-01 10:20

The energy strategies of developed countries, rather than growing demand from developing countries such as China and India, were to blame for the current global grain crisis, a top Chinese agriculture official said on Wednesday.

"Population growth and higher living standards in China and India were not the roots of the global crisis," said Vice Agricultural Minister Niu Dun. "Instead, developed countries should bear the main responsibility."

He made the remarks during a meeting with a delegation from the European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED, the largest group in the European Parliament) led by chairman Joseph Daul, according to a press release on the Ministry of Agriculture website.

European countries and the United States consumed a large quantity of grains and other crops, such as corn and rape, by promoting bio-fuels. This practice hurt the environment and affected grain production, which had already been hit by price rises of inputs such as diesel fuel amid world energy shortages, said Niu.

Heavily subsidized farm produce from European Union (EU) countries hit the markets of importing countries, which discouraged farmers in those nations, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, massive capital flows from developed countries to grain futures markets had driven up prices.

World food price rises started in 2002 and have accelerated in the past few years, especially since August. International grain prices soared 42 percent in 2007 alone. To solve the crisis, developed countries should reduce the amount of grain being used for fuel and increase grain aid to affected regions, Niu said.

All governments should strengthen policy coordination in the areas of grain production and trade, he noted.

The EU would consider cutting grain-consuming production of bio-fuels and other chemicals, said Daul, who added that he was willing to see more exchanges with China in the areas of resources and environmental protection.

Impoverished African regions had been worst-hit by the grain crisis and other countries should encourage them to plant more grains and less sugar and coffee, said Daul.

According to the latest World Bank report, global wheat prices have jumped 181 percent over the past three years, with overall food prices up 83 percent. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization also estimated that 37 countries currently face food crises.

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