Indian official: immediate cooperation between India, China key to handling food prices

By NNN-Xinhua

Boao, China : An Indian official on Friday called for immediate cooperation between India and China on agriculture to fight soaring food prices, which are pressing problems for both populous countries.

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“It is the right time for India and China to collaborate in agricultural research, agricultural extension and agricultural technologies when food prices are going up and inflation is happening, said Amit Mitra, secretary general of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, who’s here to attend this year’s Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) slated for April 11-13.

“The cooperation will not change inflation quickly, as inflation is due to short supply and short supply does not change overnight,” Mitra told Xinhua in an exclusive interview. “But let us make the beginning of cooperation.”

Mitra also said that collaboration with China to negotiate affordable rates for food grain imports in order to build up domestic stockpiles was crucial for the country’s food security.

India is experiencing a seven percent inflation, its worst in three years, while China registered an even more challenging 8.7 percent inflation rate in February.

The Indian government has recently banned export of common rice and edible oil to constrain soaring food prices, he said.

“The potential for China-India cooperation lies in the fact that China’s food productivity is two to three times more than that of India in terms of grain, rice, wheat and potatoes thanks to irrigation,” Mitra noted.

He said about 16 percent of India’s land had to depend on rainfall.

“This year is going to be a difficult year for both India and China in terms of food. But if we can do something this year toward a long-term view, next year will be better,” he said.

Mitra said wheat prices are mainly affected by Australia, where the major wheat producer has suffered five consecutive years of droughts.

He blamed productivity not going up in the world in line with growing demand, and said the development of bio-energy in the United States had caused a short supply of corn in the world market.

Rising incomes in China and India leading to a higher demand for meat also helped to drive up food prices, he added.

“In wheat and rice, the world is facing a very serious situation of short supply,” he said, “the key to handle the issue is to significantly improve per-hectare productivity.”

Mitra also suggested India and China form a cartel on energy needs to deal with rising fuel prices. “By 2030, India’s dependence on oil imports will rise to 87 percent and China’s to 77 percent.”

Established in 2001, the BFA is a pan-Asian platform for discussing key issues affecting Asia and the world. The theme of this year’s annual conference is “Green Asia: Moving towards win-win through change”.