France: Food price rises bring risk of new riots

France’s agriculture minister warned the United Nations on Thursday that food riots like those of three years ago could break out around the world because of steep rises in food prices.

Bruno Le Maire was addressing the General Assembly after the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported earlier this month that its food price index rose for the seventh month in a row in January to reach its highest level on record.

Declaring that food price swings were “intolerable” for both producers and consumers, he said they “make us run the risk of experiencing again hunger riots like those that affected a certain number of countries in 2008.”

At that time, riots broke out in countries as far apart as Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti.

Le Maire was laying out to the General Assembly France’s agenda for the Group of 20 top developed and developing economies, of which it currently holds the chair. Taming volatile commodity prices is one of the goals of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The price rises have been blamed on extreme weather, rising populations and loss of farming land, but Le Maire said they had been worsened by speculation, poor information on commodity stocks and sudden decisions by countries to halt exports.

The minister said Paris was proposing a series of measures including public investment in agriculture around the world and encouraging private investment. 


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