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Sheeran, LeMaire meet; no details on food security plan

World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran met in Paris Thursday with French Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Territorial Management Minister Bruno LeMaire to discuss global food security matters related to the agenda of the G20 countries, WFP and the French Agriculture Ministry said in a joint news release today.

The release contained few clues to the future of the global food security effort that France has pursued during its presidency of the G20 countries.

“The food crisis in the Horn of Africa and continued high and volatile food prices underscore the urgent challenges facing the poorest and most vulnerable and the need for national, regional and global action to build and strengthen resilience to sudden shocks,” the news release said.

Implementation of the “Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture,” adopted on June 23 at a meeting in Paris by G20 Agriculture Ministers and major international organizations, including WFP, “would advance this critical work,” the release said, but it was vague on exactly what will happen.

The release noted that the action plan included “consideration of a small, targeted pilot project of emergency humanitarian food reserves prepositioned in vulnerable regions that builds capacity and complements existing national and regional mechanisms,” but did not say if that project is moving forward.

An Oxfam American spokesman said that group expects the design of the pilot project to "be more or less finalized in the next month or so, but whether this stays as a feasibility study or moves to operationalization (which will likely require financial commitments even if it is not implemented until 2012) remains up in the air."

Heads of government of the G20 countries are expected to take up the agriculture ministers’ recommendations and discuss the issue of commodity speculation at their meeting in Cannes, France in early November.

The Oxfam spokesman also said, "ItÂ’'s not clear that the ag ministers really 'own' food security, price volatility, speculation, even agriculture overall in the G20," or just what might happen in Cannes on those issues.

The WFP-French Ag Ministry release also noted that the action plan included “the decision by the G20 to exempt food aid channeled through WFP from all export restrictions and extraordinary taxes,” and said that this decision will be the topic of a resolution drafted by the World Trade Organization when world trade ministers meet in Geneva in December.

The release said that Le Maire and Sheeran welcomed the first meetings on the Agricultural Market Information System and the Rapid Response Forum for Market Crisis, which were held in Rome on Sept. 15 and 16, and the launch of an initiative on the sequencing of the common wheat genome in Paris.

The National Association of Wheat Growers said that Jane DeMarchi, its director of government affairs for research and technology, had traveled to Paris this week to participate in the first meeting of the International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement, which is being led by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, known by its French acronym INRA.

Representatives from wheat research organizations from around the globe, including CropLife International, attended the meeting, while Kay Simmons, the USDA Agricultural Research Service deputy administrator for crop production and protection, was the official U.S. representative.

NAWG also noted that Kellye Eversole, an American, is executive director of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.