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G8 Leaders Call on Rice Producing Countries to Release Stockpiles


At their three-day summit in Japan the leaders of the major industrialized nations called on countries with sufficient food stocks to release some of their reserves to moderate food price in the short term. And to help bring long-term stability to the world's food supply, the leaders said at their summit in Japan that they would consider a proposal to create an emergency food reserve network. VOA's Brian Padden reports.

Amid reports that tens of millions more people have been pushed into hunger by high food prices, leaders of the world's major industrialized nations this week expressed concern over the steep rise in food prices.

The Group of Eight summit pledged $10 billion in food aid to those suffering most. They say there is a need for increased agriculture productivity. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown emphasized eliminating government policies that discourage production.

"We've got to have a global solution to what's a global problem," said Brown.

And the leaders called for countries with sufficient food stocks to make available a part of their surplus for countries in need. Japan agreed to release part of its rice stockpile. Jake Caldwell, an agriculture analyst with the Center For American Progress says other major rice producing countries such as India, Vietnam, and China have been restricting exports of their stockpiles. "If they release those stockpiles even marginally over the short term that would send a sort of an important signal to the market that the prices should stabilize," Caldwell said. "It would bring the prices down and it would provide some short-term relief."

Most of the major industrialized nations do not have large grain reserves. At the G8 summit, World Bank President Robert Zoellick advocated building an international network of food stockpiles. "I believe this summit can make an important start, here and now, to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, as we boost production of food and fuel over the medium and long term," Zoellick said.

Under the proposed system, each member state of the G8 will be required to store specific amounts of grains and release them into the market in a coordinated effort to stabilize grain prices when necessary. Caldwell says, if implemented correctly, these stockpiles could help assure adequate food supply. "If the governments had adequate stockpiles, they can release them," Caldwell said. "[It] is sort of a question of extremes. They could release them at a moderate level and therefore stabilize the system. But it is when they over-react, and panic and cause export bans on releasing any of the food, then that is when the whole system becomes out of wack."

He says these stockpiles could prevent volatility in the market without inhibiting production.

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