AGRICULTURE ministers representing Brics countries resolved yesterday to jointly build an agricultural information and digital platform to provide more accurate long-term market forecasts for food producers and purchasers in order to reduce market speculation, which could push up food prices.

There is increasing concern globally over surging food prices, which in SA have been one of the biggest inflation drivers. The ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA signed a declaration committing their countries to enhancing the co-ordination and communication with international and regional organisations such as the Group of 20, Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme, during the three- day meeting in Chengdu, China, which ended yesterday.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said yesterday that the ministers undertook to ensure that the debates in these organisations addressed issues of global food security, climate change, environmental protection, and trade and investment promotion.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson was tasked with co-ordinating the economic group's efforts to reduce the harmful effect of climate change on food security and the adaptation of agriculture to climate change that is part of the Brics' Action Plan 2012- 16, while China will be responsible for facilitating, for the benefit of all Brics members, the creation of a basic agricultural information exchange system. Brazil will oversee the development of a general strategy for ensuring access to food for the most vulnerable populations; India for enhancing agricultural technology co-operation and innovation; and Russia for handling trade and investment promotion.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson said the meeting agreed to establish the "Brics strategic alliance for agricultural research and technology co-operation", which would pool efforts in addressing major challenges faced by the world in agricultural technology.

Agri SA economist Dawie Maree said SA's agriculture and processing sectors would undoubtedly support agreements aimed at increasing markets for local products to Brics nations. "Although the agreements are a political dialogue and noble intention, we hope they will not take ages to implement otherwise they would mean very little towards the development and growth of farmers and agri-businesses," he said.

radebeh@bdfm.co.za