March 26, 2010 / 3:51 PM / 9 years ago

BRIC farm ministers pledge to tackle world hunger

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Agriculture ministers from Brazil, Russia, India and China, which together have a third of the world’s arable land, agreed on Friday to pool resources to combat famine that affects more than 1 billion people globally.

A farmer works in a paddy field on the outskirts of Agartala, July 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey/Files

The ministers from the countries collectively known as BRIC signed a pact to create a joint agricultural information base that will help each country to calculate production and consumption balances and establish national grain reserves.

“Alone, we are not able to solve the global problem of food security, but we can help the international community to fight famine,” Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters after the four ministers met in Moscow.

The emerging BRIC economies produce 40 percent of the world’s wheat, half of its pork and a third of its poultry and beef. The four countries’ combined gross domestic product was equal to 22.4 percent of the global total in 2008.

Russia, which hosted the inaugural World Grain Forum last year, is positioning itself as a major supplier of grains to the world market. It plans to double grain exports within 15 years and to raise its harvests by 50 percent.

The four ministers agreed to share experience in providing food to vulnerable populations and victims of natural disasters, as well as swapping agricultural technology to help reduce the effect of climate change on food production.

About 42 percent of the world’s population lives in BRIC countries, and a substantial proportion of these people belong to vulnerable groups that require state support to ensure food security, the ministers said in a joint statement.

ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS

Russian Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik told reporters the ministers would also hold a series of bilateral meetings. She and Pawar were joined by Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu and Brazilian Agrarian Reform Minister Guilherme Cassel.

At the one-on-one meetings, Russia planned to discuss exports of grain and oilseeds to India in exchange for Indian poultry, and shipments of wheat to Brazil in exchange for meat, Skrynnik said.

Russia has said it plans to bring about 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of derelict farmland into use — an area approximately the size of West African nation Senegal.

The government is also currently sitting on huge grain intervention stocks — around 10 million tonnes — which it has found difficulty in exporting.

Russia’s new state grain trader, the United Grain Company, has shipped only part of the 100,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid slated for Cuba and is also organising delivery of 57,000 tonnes of feed grain to Mongolia.

Editing by Robin Paxton and Anthony Barker

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