Drought, food shortages get early G20 attention

Officials from the U.S., Mexico and France plan to discuss whether a special G20 group should hold an emergency meeting on the drought hitting North America and its effect on food prices.
A plant grows from a crack on the dried-up bed of a natural pond at Badarganj village, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Aug. 5. Armed with the latest monsoon rainfall data, weather experts finally conceded this month that India is facing a drought, confirming what millions of livestock farmers around the country had known for weeks. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

There is increasing alarm over the drought hitting North America and the effect it's having on food prices.

Officials from the United States, Mexico and France will hold a conference call later this month to discuss whether an emergency international meeting is needed.

A French government official said the call will help decide whether to convene the first meeting of the G20's Rapid Response Forum, Reuters reported today.

"If the situation requires it, a meeting of the Rapid Response Forum could be called as soon as the start of  September. It depends on the urgency," Reuters quoted the official as saying.

"The aim is to talk about the situation and avoid measures like export embargoes, which would be damaging for everyone."

The body was created last year to promote discussion among decision-level officials about abnormal international market conditions, the agency said.

The drought is the worst in half a century and has sent grain prices soaring.