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U.S. and France to Decide on G-20 Meeting on Food Prices

The U.S. and France will decide later this month whether to organize a meeting of Group of 20 government officials to discuss surging grain and soybean prices, the French Agriculture Ministry said.

U.S. and French officials plan to hold a conference call in the last week of August, and a meeting of the Rapid Response Forum could take place as early as the start of September, according to a spokesman for the French Agriculture Ministry, who asked not to be identified, citing ministry rules.

The forum was set up last year to avoid a repeat of trade restrictions that sparked the 2007-08 food crisis by allowing governments to discuss “abnormal international market conditions” for food commodities, and is part of the Agricultural Market Information System agreed by the G-20.

France and the U.S. “remain alert to any new factor that could justify a convocation of the Rapid Response Forum,” the ministry wrote in an e-mailed statement today.

Corn prices have climbed 23 percent in Chicago this year, soybeans have gained 33 percent and wheat advanced 36 percent on concern drought in the U.S. and Russia will reduce global supplies of the commodities.

The G-20 countries account for 65 percent of all farmland and 77 percent of global grain output, according to the group. The U.S. will take over the presidency of the market-information system, or AMIS, from France on Oct. 2, according to France’s agriculture ministry.

The meeting would be at a “senior economist” level and could be limited to a conference call, the ministry spokesman said.

Members of the Rapid Response Forum include Joe Glauber, chief economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ye Anping, director of the department of international cooperation at China’s agriculture ministry, and Marie-Helene Le Henaff, deputy director for international trade at France’s farm ministry, according to the AMIS website.

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