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G8 Agriculture Ministers Try to Avert World Food Crisis

Agriculture ministers from the Group of 8 most industrialized countries are meeting near Treviso in in northern Italy this weekend for the first time to discuss food security and measures to boost farming output. Talks will focus on efforts to avert a permanent world food crisis. A report prepared for the meeting warns of "structural" problems in world food markets that risk war and famine - unless food output is doubled in 20 years.

The meeting follows on from last year's G8 summit in Japan, where state and government leaders pledged efforts to come up with concrete proposals to stabilize food price and ensure food security.

The Group of Eight comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States. They are joined for the three-day meeting by their counterparts from Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Australia and Egypt.

Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia, who is hosting the meeting, said the ministers are expected to focus on world hunger, the fight against waste and speculation, as well as efforts to increase agricultural production.

Zaia said that during the talks the ministers must concentrate on the three million citizens who every year die of hunger and 140 million children who are undernourished with the consequent diseases they suffer from. Zaia added that a solution must be found giving developing countries greater food production capabilities, limiting the fluctuations of agricultural prices on the market and providing incentives for cooperation projects.

G8 agriculture ministers plan to look at ways to stabilize prices, especially in the wake of the sharp increase for commodities such as wheat and rice in 2008 - a situation that triggered riots in dozens of nations.

While prices have since fallen by as much as 40 to 50 percent, they are still well above their pre-crisis levels with global cereal prices for example, still some 70 percent higher than in 2005.

A policy document, prepared by the Italian presidency ahead of the talks, called for "immediate interventions" aimed at doubling global agriculture production by 2030 to ensure that the world's fast-growing populations have enough to eat.

Agriculture minister Zaia said provisions to boost food security would be contained in a final document prepared by the G8 agriculture ministers for the end of the three-day meeting.