* G20 waits for mid-Sept report for data on supplies
* South Korea urges G20 action on grain prices
* Main talking point is avoiding unilateral trade barriers
By Sybille de La Hamaide
PARIS, Aug 23 Senior figures from G20 countries
will discuss alarm bells raised by food price rises and how to
combat volatility next week, but any decisions are unlikely
before a mid-September report on grain supply, an official said
The third price surge in four years after drought in the
United states and poor crops from Russia and the Black Sea bread
basket has stirred new fears about food supply and inflation.
France, the United States and G20 president Mexico will hold
a conference call on Monday to consider whether an emergency
international meeting is required, aiming to avoid the food
price spike that triggered unrest in poorer countries in 2008.
Ahead of the call, South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak
sent a letter to G20 members calling on them to step up joint
action to stabilize international grain prices, his office said.
But a French farm ministry official told Reuters the G20
will wait for the next release of a report by the Agricultural
Market Information System (AMIS) in mid-September that should
yield a clearer picture of grain supply.
"This conference call is to take stock of the situation,"
the official said.
"The AMIS report will not be available for another two weeks
so we would rather take a decision at government level and in
our role as coordinator of the G20 (farm) system between Sept.
10 and Sept. 15," he added.
AVOIDING UNILATERAL MOVES
South Korea's Lee suggested five measures including
proposals that G20 countries work together to ease export
controls on food items, impose more regulation on market
speculation and modify biofuel policies to cushion supply
A mix of high oil prices, growing use of biofuels,
speculation on commodity markets and export restrictions pushed
up prices of food in 2007/08, sparking violent protests in
countries including Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti.
A report on Thursday from the International Grains Council
showed a worsening picture for crop output with global stocks of
corn and wheat seen at multi-year lows.
But G20 leaders have very few tools available to control
prices and nothing decisive is expected to happen soon. The main
talking points will include ways to avoid unilateral trade
Russia, a key global wheat supplier, introduced a grain
export ban in 2010 after drought ravaged crops and sent prices
rocketing. Another spell of dry and hot weather this year has
raised concerns of a similar move.
"First it is to avoid unilateral actions which would be a
solution for one state but would worsen the rise in prices, for
example moves to ban exports or to tax exports or imports," the
But France's Agriculture Minister admitted controlling grain
prices would be difficult.
"We will think about ways to control food prices," Stephane
Le Foll told French television i>tele. "For cereals, it is
harder, they are ruled by the market."
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Veronica Brown
and Keiron Henderson)