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Japan PM urges food crisis relief
June, 02nd 2008

JAPANESE prime minister Yasuo Fukuda called today for urgent measures to provide food security to poor nations amid runaway prices that have sparked riots around the world.

"We need short, middle and long-term solutions to the crisis," Mr Fukuda said after holding talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on the first leg of a European tour focused on the global food crisis.

The prime minister said the international community must act together to tackle soaring prices and shortages and vowed to put it at the top of the agenda of the Group of Eight summit in Japan next month.

"Food-producing countries no longer have sufficient stocks and are therefore trying to export less. This has become the case with more and more countries in recent months," he said.

"This has pushed up prices and countries who cannot cope with the additional cost, no longer have enough food. So we have to sit down as the international community and come up with short-term relief measures."

Mr Fukuda said in the longer term, richer nations must help their poor counterparts, particularly in Africa, to be in a position to produce more food and become self sufficient.

"We need to export seed and know-how to those countries who need it."

Both Mr Fukuda and Ms Merkel warned that the production of biofuels as an alternative energy source must not be allowed to interfere with crop cultivation and aggravate food shortages.

"We must make sure that biofuel production does not compete with crop cultivation, that it does not interfere with the need to produce food," said Ms Merkel.

Both leaders called for steps to increase oil production and supply stability as prices soar above $US130 per barrel.

"What is important is that more oil should be produced and we should invest in this. We need a stable supply," said Mr Fukuda, but warned: "We cannot ignore the market and just decide something."

Mr Fukuda's trip is part of Japan's preparations to host the G8 summit of leading industrialised nations on July 7-9 at Toyako, a lakeside resort on the northern island of Hokkaido.

He said today another important focus of the G8 meeting would be to ensure emerging nations such as China and India sign up to measures to cap the production of greenhouse gases.

"We have to bring those two countries on board," he said.

Ms Merkel agreed and vowed to help him lobby the two vast nations that say signing up to fixed targets on slashing greenhouse gases will hinder growth and their fight against poverty.

"We agree entirely on this point and I will support him as well as I can."

Mr Fukuda, facing slumping approval ratings, hopes to use the G8 summit to boost Japan's diplomatic clout and highlight its efforts to help tackle global warming and food shortages in developing countries.

From Germany, he will fly to London tomorrow and hold a meeting with British counterpart Gordon Brown.

He will then move to Rome to deliver a speech at a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), where Asia's biggest economy may unveil fresh aid to the UN food body.

Japan has already promised $US100 million in emergency food aid and pledged last week at a summit with African leaders to help the continent double production of rice within a decade.

 
 
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