Pawar addresses High Level Conference on World Food Security in Rome

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New Delhi, Jun 4 (UNI) India today expressed concern at diversion of foodgrains to bio-fuel production and supported the FAO findings that the current rise in farm commodity prices was not due to higher consumption by emerging economies but diversion of maize and other crops for ethanol production.

Putting forth India's stand at the High Level Conference on World Food Security at Rome, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar argued that such diversion compromised food security without having a significant impact on the fuel scenario.

Mr Pawar also underlined the need for urgent collective action for tackling the impact of climate change on agriculture. He also advised more investment in research and taking research to the farmer. India, he said, was 'now ushering in the gene revolution for an evergreen revolution'.

Mr Pawar added that high prices of foodgrains have been a cause of concern for the world community. The reasons for the rise have been well analysed by FAO secretariat. While there might be some difference of opinion about relative contribution of various factors, there was a fair amount of consensus about the factors that have been responsible for rise in prices of foodgrains.

''It is generally expected that these price levels are likely to remain high for some time to come. These price levels, however, need to be looked at in proper perspective. Though it sounds counter intuitive, the challenge of high foodgrains prices offers us an opportunity to look at the relevant issues more closely for an affirmative action to ensure that food is available to all at affordable prices and that farmers also get remunerative returns on their investments,'' the Minister added.

A lot is being said about the impact of higher consumption in emerging economies on world food prices. FAO data clearly shows that recent high commodity prices have not originated in these emerging economies. It also appears that additional demand for maize and rapeseed as feed stock for production of ethanol and bio diesel and high input costs particularly energy prices have had the strongest impact on prices.

While the quest of the world community for finding sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels is well appreciated, manufacture of bio-fuels at the cost of foodgrains needs to be examined in more depth. As a study indicated, converting all of the world's grains into ethanol might yield only about 11 per cent of the total world oil demand. ''Simply put, even if we decided to convert all of the world's grain into motor fuel we will still need to use a lot of fossil fuel and will not be having anything left to eat,'' he said.

''Given a scenario like this, the impact of diversion of land which grows cereal for human consumption into production for bio-fuels is likely to be self-defeating. Our policy has been for the use of non-cereal biomasses, crop residues and for cultivation of jatropha on degraded and waste land for bio-fuel production.

Conversion of foodgrains and edible oil seeds for producing bio-fuel, prima facie, is fraught with food security concerns as is evident already,'' Mr Pawar quipped.

Climate has always played a decisive role in agriculture. So far, farmers, to a considerable extent, have been able to adapt to climatic shocks. It is, however, unclear how they might cope with more persistent climatic changes. Conservation of Agro-biodivesity will be a key element for adaptation to climatic change.

In order to mitigate the effect of losses due to trans-boundary movement of pests which was going to be of higher dimension, revisiting the bio-security policies and systems was needed. ''There is an urgent need for synergetic action to deal with it for strengthening our regulatory system, infrastructure, expertise and research by using collective wisdom and resources at regional level,'' he said.

The Minister complimented DG, FAO for taking various initiatives in the context of soaring food prices and associated issues and also having convened this high level conference to deliberate and try to find solutions to the problem through collective action.


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