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President Hu: 'We're not to blame' for food crisis
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President Hu Jintao yesterday denied that the growing demand in developing countries is responsible for rising food prices across the world.

This is a baseless accusation and shows the irresponsible attitude of those making it, he said.

Hu's remarks came at his meeting with leaders of four other developing countries, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico.

China and the four countries account for 42 percent of the world population and 12 percent of its GDP. The leaders will attend the final day of the annual Group of Eight (G8) Summit today, when climate change is likely to top the agenda.

The soaring food prices have "added to the difficulties (facing) global poverty reduction efforts, and affected regional stability", Hu said.

"Developing countries suffer most from rising food prices and we the five countries have all been affected."

What is needed, he said, is a more favorable external environment for the growth of developing countries.

The causes for soaring food prices are multi-faceted and complex, he said, and urged the international community to raise its level of cooperation and take comprehensive steps to maintain food security.

All the five countries are major grain producers and consumers so "we should jointly encourage the international community" to intensify efforts to ensure food security, Hu said.

At the end of the meeting, the leaders of the five countries called for a shared responsibility to ensure world food security, and international cooperation to boost energy development and efficiency.

"We call upon the international community to devise better ways and means of producing and distributing food," a joint declaration said.

"Multi-billion (dollar) agricultural trade-distorting support in developed countries have hampered the development of food production in developing countries, critically reducing their possibilities of reaction to the present crisis," the declaration said.

The leaders stressed the "imperativeness of creating an enabling international environment for agro-produce related trade, establishing a just and reasonable international trade regime for agricultural products and concluding the Doha Round (of WTO talks) with meaningful commitments to agricultural subsidies reductions".

Prices of agricultural commodities have risen sharply over the past two years. The increase has been particularly sharp in the first six months of this year, with prices of rice, corn and wheat reaching record highs.

This has sparked riots in many countries and worsened the condition of 850 million people already in the grip of hunger.

The leaders said they "encourage collaborative action for better seeds and farm outputs that are sustainable and environmentally sound ... so as to create a conductive international environment for food security".

On biofuel, they said "it is essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels". "It is important that public policies for production of biofuels contribute to sustainable development and the well-being of the most vulnerable people and do not threaten food security."

Biofuel production is expected to rise from 11 billion liters a year in 2007 to about 24 billion liters by 2017. This growth means more grains, oilseeds and sugarcane will be used to make biofuel.

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily July 9, 2008)

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