Page last updated at 03:48 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 04:48 UK

Japan urges global food support

Japan's PM warns rising prices means poor counties can no longer buy enough food

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has called for urgent action to ensure food supplies to poor nations struggling with sharp price rises.

Speaking in Germany after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, he appealed for "short, middle and long-term solutions to the crisis".

Last week, he vowed to double Japan's aid to Africa within five years.

Mrs Merkel said she would push G8 leaders to adopt a common approach to combating the rise in global prices.

The G8 is due to assemble in Hokkaido, Japan, on 7-9 July. Tokyo took over the group's revolving presidency from Berlin this year.

Mr Fukuda said the food situation would top the summit's agenda.

He is on a trip to Europe as part of Japan's summit preparations, and will also attend the UN food summit in Rome next week.

Biofuel warning

"Food-producing countries no longer have sufficient stocks and are therefore trying to export less," the Japanese PM said in the German capital.

"This has become the case with more and more countries in recent months.

"This has pushed up prices and countries who cannot cope with the additional cost no longer have enough food.

"So we have to sit down as the international community and come up with short-term relief measures."

In the longer term, he added, richer nations must help their poor counterparts, particularly in Africa, to be in a position to produce more food and become self-sufficient.

"We need to export seed and know-how to those countries who need it," he said.

Both he and Mrs Merkel agreed that the production of biofuels as an alternative energy source must not be allowed to affect crop cultivation.

"We must make sure that biofuel production does not... interfere with the need to produce food," the German chancellor said.

Appeal to Africa

Last week, Mr Fukuda addressed leaders from more than 50 African countries at a conference in Yokohama, Japan.

He called on them to work together on measures to try to combat climate change.

He pledged that by 2012 Japan would double its aid to Africa, currently $1.7bn (850m), increasing it gradually year by year to meet the target.

However, Japan gives less to the continent than the US or Britain, France and Germany - three countries with smaller economies.

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