Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 12:21 UK

EU warns against food export bans

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson said restricting exports created "an illusion of food security"

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has warned food producers to avoid a "spiral of protectionism" in the face of soaring prices.

He told MEPs in Brussels that "export taxes, quotas or bans do not make economic or development sense".

Mr Mandelson said the best way to respond to rising prices in staple foods was with trade deals.

Protests against the cost of food have taken place across the world and have led to the fall of Haiti's government.

A number of countries including south-east Asia's biggest rice consumer, Indonesia, have recently imposed restrictions on food exports.

Egypt halts rice exports
Malawi suspends external sales of maize (except to Zimbabwe)
Indonesia curbs medium-grade rice exports
Kazakhstan halts wheat sales
Vietnam extends rice sale ban until June

Mr Mandelson told the European Parliament's trade committee that he did not underestimate the political pressures on governments, but he said such policies were unhelpful.

"By chasing an illusion of food security, these policies throttle domestic production, choke off supplies to others and risk leading to a spiral of protectionism and dwindling production."

He said that the EU's trade pacts with countries in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group (ACP) could help boost agricultural trade.

Only half of the countries in the ACP group have signed or initialled Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU amid concern that nascent domestic industries could be harmed by trade liberalisation.

But the trade commissioner said trade agreements addressed directly the needs of developing countries.

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