Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Indian minister attacks biofuels

P Chidambaram
Greed is overtaking the common good of the world
P Chidambaram

Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that it is "outrageous" that developed countries are turning food crops into bio fuels.

He said that countries like the US were doing so while the world's poor are struggling with surging food prices.

Delivering a lecture in Singapore, Mr Chidambaram said that using corn and other crops for fuel was a sign of "lopsided priorities".

He said that such an "uncaring" policy had to be strongly condemned.

The finance minister was also critical of "lax supervision", which he said had led to the US mortgage crisis and global economic uncertainty.

'Deprived of food'

Mr Chidambaram said developing economies were shouldering an "enormous burden" from the relentless rise in prices of food and commodities.

He said the situation was worsened by the diversion of food to produce bio fuels in some countries.

Citing the US as an example, he said nearly 20% of corn goes to making bio fuels.

India village family
Mr Chidambaram said there was now a climate of food insecurity

"It is a sign of the lopsided priorities of certain countries that they will resort to measures that will produce fuel at a cheaper cost in order to meet the transport requirements of a section of their population," Mr Chidambaram said.

He said the pursuit of such policies at a time when many in the world could barely afford to eat was "outrageous and... must be condemned".

Corn, soybeans, sugar cane and other crops are seen as sources of clean and cheap biofuels.

Correspondents say this results in less grain available for human consumption, which drives up the prices for basic foodstuffs.

The finance minister said that the prices of maize, rice and wheat have at least doubled between 2004 and last month, while commodities such as crude oil and metals have also spiralled in price.

He said that these rises were damaging for countries like India, which subsidises food and fuel.

Mr Chidambaram also said the rise in oil prices from about $30 a barrel in 2004 to above $100 this year is another example of "greed overtaking the common good of the world".

"Oil producing countries have struck a gold mine. Demand is very high... they think that this is a great time to reap in the profits," he said.

"I understand that from a commercial point of view, but it's hurting the world economy."

Quick guide: Biofuels
24 Jan 07 |  Science/Nature
Biofuels 'will not lead to hunger'
05 Oct 06 |  Science/Nature

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