Kuala Lumpur: The “D-8” group of developing nations on Tuesday resolved to boost food production to combat shortages that it said threaten to trigger widespread political unrest.
“We want to cooperate in areas of food production, we want to increase the food supply,” said Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after a one-day summit. Abdullah said member nations needed to modernize their agriculture sectors, but were blessed with “plenty of land, and good and fertile land.”
“With food and oil prices going high, the only alternative is agriculture and we agreed to diversify our economies and divert to agriculture,” Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a joint press conference.
The D-8 comprises Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey and is meeting as the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial powers holds a high-profile annual summit in Japan. Abdullah said the inflation crisis had eruptedas a global recession looms, and that people in developing countries would be worst-hit.
“The price of oil has skyrocketed to levels never anticipated... The price of food has increased beyond the normal abilities to pay by the poor, which form the majority of the world’s people,” he said.
“There is also the danger of the food crisis creating political unrest in many societies.”
Abdullah called on the international community to address the spiralling cost of crude, and urged the G-8 leaders not to ignore the plight of those less well-off.
“The most important thing that we would like to see is whether decisions made there not only affect rich countries but also poor countries affected by the oil hikes,” he said.
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration if I say that the whole world is waiting to hear what this conference has decided.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked Western nations over the spiralling cost of oil which, he said, had been engineered “for the benefit of the rich of the world”.
“This situation of oil crisis is an artificial situation. Today we see production is more than the consumption of the market and we see the market is full of crude oil,” he said.
Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the challenge of food and energy security required urgent attention.
“There is no quick-fix that will sweep aside this challenge. But we must act on it at once and in concert. To delay concerted action on this great challenge of our time is to court disaster,” he warned.
Yudhoyono also said D-8 countries should ensure food self-sufficiency to address the problem of food security.
Abdullah, the new D-8 chairman, said global food prices were estimated to have risen by more than 75% since 2000 and urged the grouping to modernize their agriculture sectors.
He also urged major oil producers to adopt Saudi Arabia’s move to increase output amid calls for greater production after the cost of crude roughly doubled over the past year.
But he warned against giving over agricultural land for the production of biofuels, saying that would worsen the global food shortage and drive up prices.
“We must not allow the zeal for energy security to come into direct conflict with the basic need for food production,” he said.
Malaysia last month slashed its fuel subsidies, sending pump prices up 41% in a decision that sparked widespread public anger.