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Economy

G-7 pledges to promote sharing info on livestock diseases

NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Farm ministers from Group of Seven countries agreed Sunday to promote information-sharing on livestock diseases, as they wrapped up a two-day meeting in Japan to discuss global food security.

     Ministers and representatives from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States also confirmed in a joint statement the need to attract more women and young people to agriculture and to deal with food supply disruptions from climate change.

     "We had very good and productive discussions on measures to strengthen the G-7 and global food security," Japanese farm minister Hiroshi Moriyama, who chaired the meeting, said at a press conference after the meeting.

     During the meeting in the Sea of Japan coastal city of Niigata, the G-7 farm ministers discussed what efforts are needed to raise global food output to meet demand from the world's growing population.

     World agricultural production would need to increase by about 60 percent by 2050, as the global population is projected to grow more than 20 percent to around 9.2 billion by then, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

     The outcome of the farm ministers meeting, the first such gathering since 2009, will be reflected in discussions at the G-7 leaders summit on May 26 and 27 in Mie Prefecture, central Japan.

     "We recognize that the agricultural sector plays an important role in ensuring global food security, particularly in an era of rapid urbanization," the farm chiefs said in their "Niigata Declaration."

     "In Niigata, we came together to address emerging challenges to our agricultural sectors, with the hope that the actions we undertake will benefit other countries facing similar challenges."

     To cope with food supply problems caused by the cross-border spread of major animal diseases, such as bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease, the ministers agreed to set up an international framework to smoothly share information on livestock epidemics, according to the statement.

     Under the framework, they will also exchange information on the rise of antimicrobial resistance amid concerns that long-term use of antibiotic drugs to prevent livestock infections is contributing to the emergence of resistance in livestock.

     The aging farm labor population remains important to maintain stable food supply. The ministers decided to hold a meeting in Tokyo in autumn with developing countries to discuss concrete steps to strengthen women and young people's active participation in the farm industry, Japanese farm ministry officials said.

     The G-7 members will also meet in November on the sidelines of a U.N. climate change conference as they step up research cooperation on the impact of climate change on food production, the officials said.

     The ministers also agreed on the importance of increasing investment in the agriculture and food industries in developing countries to strengthen cooperation between farmers and businesses to create value-added farm products to increase farmers' income.

     They plan to hold a meeting on investment in the agricultural food sector to "benchmark best-practices, exchange policy experiences on access to credit and facilitating responsible investments in agriculture and agribusiness," the statement said.

     Still, concern remains that efforts to support farmers could be hampered by free trade deals that Japan, the United States and other countries are looking to in an effort to boost their growth.

     Some farmers are worried that the competitiveness of their products could be undermined by an influx of cheaper foreign products under such trade initiatives.

     "I would say that trade is one strategy for addressing opportunity and meeting the challenges of global food security," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the press conference.

     Japan, the United States, Canada and nine other Pacific nations signed the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade pact earlier this year, under which duties on nearly all imported items will be eliminated.

     But duties on some sensitive farm products to be imported into the Japanese market will remain to protect farmers from cost-competitive imports.

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