The head of the United Nations' food agency has backed plans
for international grain reserves, offering high-ranked support for proposals
relaunched this week by French President Francois Hollande.
Jose Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization, "expressed interest and support" for proposals for
using strategic stockpiles of food to boost food security, the FAO said.
"For FAO, maintaining food security reserves is a very
good strategy that contributes to the stability of domestic prices of
food," Mr Graziano da Silva said.
He is to discuss the proposal, aired by Mr Hollande on
Tuesday, on a visit next month to China, the highest-profile operator of state crop
stockpiles, and indeed this week sold 400,000 tonnes of soybeans from
inventories at 4,552 yuan ($720) per tonne.
The price, while equivalent to more than $19 a bushel,
represents a discount of some 350 yuan a tonne to futures on the Dalian
exchange, besides being cheaper than imports to private buyers, who face paying
Mr da Silva's support was revealed at a meeting in Rome,
where the FAO is based, with Norberto Yauhar, the agriculture minister of Argentina,
which also maintains reserves of 1m tonnes of both corn and wheat among
measures to preserve domestic stockpiles.
Mr Yauhar discussed the idea of "regional and international"
food reserves at a meeting with the Chinese government earlier this week.
However, the food stockpiling idea has met with a cooler
welcome from some other governments, including that of Australia, the
second-ranked wheat exporter, which warned that reserves "can have a negative
impact on prices and production".
The move is also seen as unlikely to gain the support of the
US, which has abandoned stockpiling ideas experimented with in the decades
following World War II.
Extra corn exports
Separately, Mr Yauhar unveiled the release for export of a further
2.75m tonnes of corn from Argentina's 2011-12 crop, harvested earlier this year.
The increase will take total shipments from the crop to 16.45m
tonnes, he said.
The US Department of Agriculture, whose data set world
benchmarks, this week pegged Argentina's 2011-12 corn shipments at 16.0m
Argentina's move "goes to show that there is no threat of a
global food crisis at present, although we must continue to be vigilant and
monitor the situation closely", Mr da Silva said.