G-8 leaders to call for stockpiling basic grains


Toyako (Japan) : Leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations are expected to agree during their summit in Hokkaido to stockpile grains to better cope with future food crises, sources said.

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The proposal would require each G-8 nation to store specific amounts of grains and release them into the market in a coordinated effort to stabilize grain prices when necessary.

The plan will be included in a special document on the global food crisis to be adopted during the summit at Lake Toyako scheduled to start Monday, diplomatic sources said.

The creation of the food stockpile system was agreed upon at a meeting of top officials of G8 nations preparing for the summit meeting.

The system is modeled after the International Energy Agency’s programme for stockpiling crude oil in preparation for an energy crisis.

Some grains, such as wheat, which cannot be stored for a long time, will be replenished to maintain the allocated stockpile amounts, according to the plan.

Currently, Japan and Germany are the only G-8 nations that have surplus grains in stock.

The G-8 nations will set up a council of experts to discuss details of the plan, including quotas for each participating nation, an inventory management system and the channels through which the grains will be released into the market.

However, uncertainty remains over how effective the system will be in stabilizing food prices. Many other variables have led to soaring prices and food shortages that have sparked unrest in some countries.

Export restrictions, for example, contribute to surging food prices. The special document will say that such export controls should be based on strict disciplinary rules, the sources said.

The document will also express concerns about excessive inflows of speculative funds into food markets, which has also pushed up prices. It will say that the markets should be open and efficient.

Referring to the growing use of grain-derived biofuel to power vehicles, the document will call for a balanced approach between production and use of grains in line with food security.

The Japanese government has planned its own countermeasures,totaling $1.1 billion, to deal with food problems, including an additional $50 million in emergency aid for struggling nations by October, through the UN World Food Program and bilateral channels.