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South Korea urges action on grain prices

South Korean President sent a letter calling on G20 members to step up action stabilising grain prices.

South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak speaks during a press conference at La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago on June 22, 2012. Picture: AFP.

SEOUL - South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sent on Thursday a letter to G20 members calling on them to step up joint action to stabilise international grain prices, the presidential office said.

Lee suggested five measures including that the Group of 20 countries should work together to ease export controls on food items and impose more regulation over market speculation in raw materials, the office said.

The worst drought in half a century in the United States and poor crops from the Black Sea bread basket have lifted prices of corn, wheat and soybeans. The price of rice - a staple in Asia and parts of Africa - has not been affected.

"Today we face another risk of surging global food prices, which is hindering the global economic recovery," Lee's office quoted him as saying in the letter to fellow G20 members.

"Of course, a food crisis could lead to consequences more dire than that of an oil and energy crisis, threatening the survival of the poor and vulnerable of developing countries, particularly low-income countries. We must respond urgently to prevent such a crisis."

Lee said G20 members should "redouble efforts" to increase agricultural production and productivity, and modify bio fuel policies to cushion supply shocks, the office added.

The Group of 20 will decide this week whether to convene an emergency meeting of its Rapid Response Forum, created last year under the French presidency of the G20 to respond to abnormal market conditions.

Global financial lenders are advising countries to prepare for the possibility of higher food bills in coming months, but for the moment the International Monetary Fund and World Bank see few signs of a widespread food price crisis like in 2007/08.

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