France is expected to urge the European Union to place greater priority on agriculture and food security in the 27-member bloc during a meeting of European agricultural ministers in Luxembourg. Lisa Bryant has more on the initiative from Paris.
France has the largest agricultural sector of any European Union country, and has traditionally championed its farmers, and the incentives they receive from Brussels. The push for greater emphasis on agriculture comes at a time of sharply rising food prices.
In an interview published Monday in France's Le Figaro newspaper, French Agricultural Minister Michel Barnier said it is critical for a European initiative to tackle the food shortages that are becoming security issues, sparking riots from Haiti to Cameroon to the Philippines. He says he will push efforts to prepare agriculture to meet new challenges, including climate change, to his European colleagues.
Analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges, of the French Institute for International Relations in Paris, says the French effort comes as no surprise.
"It's clear that France has always been a strong supporter of the common agricultural policy. In a way France was very disappointed to see the common agricultural policy could be jeopardized, that it could be transformed. And that's why with the food crisis France is very happy with the situation because it expects it should push forward food production in Europe," said Defarges.
Experts blame rising food prices on a new interest in biofuels, climate change and rising demand for food from fast-growing nations like China and India. Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have issued stark warnings about the consequences.
In an interview on Radio France, IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn warned the food riots could spread.
Strauss Kahn says that for the moment the food riots are limited to a few places and international organizations are able to deliver the necessary aid. But he says the situation could become untenable and lead to major problems for developing nations.