A call against ad hoc state food restrictions in new bubble

BIG SKY, May 22, 2011 (AFP) – As high food prices push millions of people into poverty, major farming nations are resisting calls to impose trade restrictions and are committing to keep global markets open. APEC — a 21-member Asia-Pacific bloc that encompasses more than half of the world economy and includes the United States, China, Japan and Australia — called Friday for “open and transparent” food markets.

In a joint statement after talks in the ski resort of Big Sky, Montana, APEC trade officials said that open markets would ensure food security by increasing reliability of supply and reducing price volatility.

The calm reaction marks a sharp contrast to just a few years ago, when another spike in prices led some 30 countries to impose restrictions on food exports including Vietnam and India, leading exporters of rice.

Thailand, while not imposing restrictions, at the time briefly floated the idea of creating a rice cartel that could influence prices much like oil-producing nations in OPEC.

Food prices have again jumped in the past year due to factors including severe weather in key grain producers such as Russia and Australia along with higher fuel costs triggered by turbulence in