BRIC Countries Agree Food Security Strategy

Brazil, Russia, India and China agreed to combat hunger and boost efforts to promote food security, according to a strategy signed by the countries' agriculture ministers in Moscow on Friday.

"In order to promote food security, it is necessary to have a well-functioning, worldwide food market and a trade system based on the principles of justice and freedom from discrimination," the declaration said. "Therefore speeding up the accomplishment of the WTO Doha round of talks is a primary task."

The Doha round of negotiations, which started in 2001, is aimed at lowering trade barriers. The talks were stalled in 2008 over disagreements between developed and developing countries on measures that would allow poorer countries to levy tariffs on certain agricultural goods.

The countries, known collectively as BRIC, agreed Friday to establish an agricultural information database that would help countries compute supply and demand and establish grain reserves.

In addition, the ministers agreed to reduce the effects of global climate change on food security and cooperate in the field of agricultural technology and innovation. An expert working group was set up to implement these measures, and it will meet on a regular basis, the statement said.

The four agriculture ministers — Russia's Yelena Skrynnik, China's Han Changfu, Brazil's Guilherme Cassel and India's Sharad Pawar — also made signs of boosting trade within the group.

The countries are home to 42 percent of the world's population and 32 percent of its arable land, the Russian Agriculture Ministry said in a statement ahead of the meeting. Combined, the BRIC countries produce about 40 percent of the world's wheat, 50 percent of its pork, more than 30 percent of its poultry and 30 percent of its beef, the statement said.

Skrynnik said after the meeting that Russia had made its first shipment of grain, 24,000 metric tons, to Brazil. The country already accounts for 65 percent of Russia's meat imports ($2.1 billion) and 12.4 percent of total agriculture imports.

Skrynnik also said poultry from India could help replace U.S. imports of the meat, which were frozen when long-planned regulations went into effect that forbid the import of poultry treated with chlorine — a production method used by many U.S. producers. In exchange, Russia hopes to secure India as a buyer for its grain and oilseeds.

But Russia isn't very interested in increasing its agriculture imports from other countries. Earlier this year, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new food security doctrine, calling for 85 percent of all meat consumed in the country to be produced domestically. Instead, it is trying to position itself as a major regional agriculture supplier, hoping to double its exports of grain within 15 years.

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