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French Agriculture Minister Vows to Fight Speculators

The matters of food production, lack of transparency in food stocks and speculation on commodities markets need to be tackled as they are affecting food prices, French agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire told CNBC.com Monday.

Farmer picking weeds
Mark Adams | America 24-7 | Getty Images
Farmer picking weeds

“There are three key points that need to be tackled,” Le Maire told CNBC in an interview, “if you’re looking at the root for price volatility.”

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for stricter regulation to fight speculators in commodities markets, whom he compared to a mafia.

“If we have a problem with the mafia, we have to fight the mafia,” Le Maire said, “it is the same with speculators… even if it is hard, and even if it is only one of the reasons of price volatility.”

As part of France’s 2011 chairmanship of the G20, an Agricultural Ministers Meeting will take place in Paris on Wednesday. Discussions will be held around a five-chapter action plan.

“G20 members have to take their responsibility to fight volatility,” Le Maire added, saying that “there will be white smoke, or black smoke, but no grey smoke” at the end of the meeting, comparing the negotiations to the ones surrounding the election of a new pope.

“We tried to take into consideration all concerns from all G20 members… so we should be able to adopt this action plan,” he said.

Food Security vs Increased Production

“Increasing the production will have an impact on food safety,” Le Maire said, “the E. Coli issue is not part of the action plan, but it will be one of the key questions in coming years,” he added, as increasing the production worldwide is one of the answers the G20 will offer to tackle price volatility. “There might be more safety crises.”

However, Le Maire believes this is to be dealt with at European Union level, “the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is one of the key answers,” he said.

Bruno Le Maire’s name has recently been heard more and more as a potential successor to Christine Lagarde – if the current French Finance Ministerwins her race against Agustin Carstens for the head of the IMF.

“I am not a candidate… I have a tremendous and difficult job here,” Le Maire said. “I also have to deal with the question of the CAP after 2013… I’m already very busy.”