France to convene Sept. grain talks if crisis looms


PARIS — France will convene in the first half of September a rapid reaction forum of G-20 countries if upcoming data on grain markets points to serious tensions following drought in the United States and Russia, a farm ministry official said on Monday. The French government announced on Saturday it was ready to call an emergency meeting on grains in light of a surge in world prices driven by the worst drought in more than 50 years in the U.S. Midwest crop belt.

To judge the gravity of the situation, France is waiting for a U.S. government crop report on Aug. 10 and then a study from a G-20 information body in late August or early September, the ministry official said. “It’s too early to tell if we are heading towards a crisis or if the situation is going to turn our normally,” he said. “We have to be vigilant.” A first-ever gathering of farm ministers from the Group of 20 countries last year set up a data-sharing system, known as AMIS, to improve transparency in agricultural markets, with the aim of tackling price volatility and ensuring food security. France currently presides the G-20 agriculture body and will hand over the presidency to the United States at the end of September, the official said. The initiative aims to encourage major producing countries to avoid unilaterally imposing trade restrictions, moves that have been widely blamed for exacerbating market tensions during price spikes in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Russia banned grain exports for almost a year after a severe drought two years ago and weather problems this year have fueled market rumors it could resort to export curbs again. But Russia has given reassuring indications in contacts through the AMIS system, the French official said. “We have the impression that Russia wants to act in the spirit of the G-20,” he said.