G-20 ministers meet begins; to focus on food prices

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Chandra Shekhar

Paris, Feb 18 (PTI) Finance ministers of 20 mostinfluential countries will discuss ways to deal with risingenergy cost and food prices moving to "dangerous levels", attheir two-day meeting which began here today.

"International commodity prices are rising. Foodsituation is a major issue which is going to affect theinternational economy and trade. (It) is going to bediscussed," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said ahead ofthe G-20 ministerial meeting here.

Mukherjee and finance ministers of rich and developingcountries such as China, Brazil, Russia, the US, Japan,Germany and UK are meeting at a time when increasing food andcrude oil prices have replaced currency war and the bail-outs,as the burning issues, as highlighted by the World Bank.

World Bank highlighted the gravity of rising food prices.

"Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels andthreaten tens of millions of poor people around theworld," its President Robert B Zoellick had said.

The World Bank report said that about 44 million peoplein developing countries have slipped into poverty on accountof soaring prices of food items.

The global food price index has climbed 15 per centbetween October 2010 and January 2011, it said, adding thatwheat prices have doubled during the same period.

Governments in several countries are battling foodinflation, which in India remains in double digit despitemoderation in recent weeks.

Noting that the global economic recovery is stillfragile, Mukherjee said, the ministerial meeting would focuson achieving long-term sustainable growth.

"The recovery process from the international financialcrisis is still fragile. It was expected that by 2010, most ofthe countries will recover.

"There is strong recovery in North America, particularlythe USA, but it is still fragile, particularly in fourcountries where sovereign debt is very high (and ) arecausing problems. These countries are Ireland, Portugal, Spainand Italy," Mukherjee added.

Currency war, which was a major issue at G-20 meetings inSouth Korea last year, will take a back seat this time. Thecurrency war refers to competitive devaluation of currency bycertain countries to keep their exports competitive.

"I don''t think it (currency war) is going to be thatprominent in this meeting of the G-20. It was exhaustively andextensively discussed during the last meeting (in SouthKorea)," Mukherjee said.

The G 20 countries collectively account for 85 per centof the global output and two-third of the world population.

PTI CS RSN JD PC

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