Global farm ministers urge free food trade during pandemic

HAMBURG, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Agriculture ministers from more than 70 countries urged governments to keep world food trade open to ensure food supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, a communique after a virtual meeting on Friday said.

The meeting was part of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture conference in Berlin and the communique said that despite COVID-19, global food supply and international markets have been relatively stable.

But food export restrictions imposed by some countries during the pandemic should have time limits, it said.

"We will seek to minimise the risks to food security caused by measures to combat COVID-19 by keeping trade and markets open and food supply chains and distribution functioning," it said.

"We agree that emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary, that they must not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global food supply chains, and that they must be consistent with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules."

About 40 countries worldwide do not have enough farmland to feed themselves and are dependent on food imports, added German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner.

She appealed for food aid purchases to be exempted from any export restrictions imposed by some countries to protect their supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Higher prices should not be paid for by people’s hunger,” Kloeckner said.

Among other action needed is more research into diseases among wild animals to prevent new pandemics and reduction of food waste, Kloeckner said. (Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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