France mulls plan to soften blow from soaring grain

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 04, 2012 12:01 PM
France mulls plan to soften blow from soaring grain

PARIS (Reuters) - France is working on a wide action plan to lower the impact of soaring grain prices on consumers and farmers, mainly breeders, which should be unveiled by the president next week, an official said on Tuesday.

Drought in the U.S. Midwest and the Black Sea regions have sent grain prices to record highs, fuelling a 6 percent surge in the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) July food price index.

The plan should include food price talks between farmers and retailers and calls for banks to help farmers facing higher costs, chiefly breeders using grain-based feed, the farm minister's spokesman said.

French President Francois Hollande is due to unveil the main lines of the action plan when he inaugurates the international livestock trade fair Space in Rennes, Brittany, next Tuesday.

He should support the launch next week of a 'solidarity fund' of around 100 million euros by grain growers -- who have greatly benefited from the rise in prices after harvesting a bumper crop this year -- to help suffering breeders and promote the signature of long-term supply contracts between growers and breeders to smooth price moves, the spokesman said.

Hollande should also reiterate France's readiness to trigger an emergency meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies if reports show new signs of a sharp drop in grain supplies that could lead to a new spike in prices.

The United Nations' food agencies on Tuesday called world leaders to take swift, coordinated action to ensure that food price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe that could hurt tens of millions of people in coming months.

But in a conference call on rising food prices last week senior G20 officials and international bodies said they would wait for September's crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture before deciding whether to take joint action on the issue.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Keiron Henderson)