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. Thai PM lashes out at World Bank over biofuel criticism

by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) April 22, 2008
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Tuesday lashed out at the World Bank and UN for criticising biofuel producing nations for soaring food prices while sparing oil exporters.

Samak said he had set up two government committees to oversee the urgent issues of energy prices and food supply as he reassured Thais there was enough rice for domestic consumption.

Biofuels were developed as part of plans to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, held responsible for global warming, but since they take up land that would otherwise be used for food production, they have been increasingly blamed for soaring food prices.

The World Bank said earlier this month that increased biofuel production had contributed to the rise in food prices.

"Let me ask the World Bank whether they used to ask oil exporting countries before pointing their fingers and blaming us that we have to use rice fields to grow biofuel crops," Samak told reporters.

"They have unreasonably continued to inflate oil prices even though the oil supply is not running out yet," he added.

Samak also angrily attacked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who he said had voiced concern over the world food crisis but failed to tackle rocketing oil prices.

"Mr Ban Ki-moon complained about agricultural producing countries but he never pays attention to oil-exporting countries, which really cause volatility in our world economy," he said.

Samak said his government would immediately study using abandoned government land to increase agricultural output.

"Thailand is not to worry at all -- I have asked the finance ministry to consider developing the government's own land for cultivation so Thailand will be the world's kitchen," he said.

Thailand, world largest rice exporter, Tuesday projected rice production would hit 30.93 million tonnes of paddy in this crop year.

The Office of Agriculture Economics forecast total production after milling would be 20.4 million tonnes, with 55 percent for domestic consumption and the remainder for export. Thailand produced 19.6 million tonnes last year.

International demand for Thai rice has soared after other top exporters, Vietnam and India, imposed limits on exports to ensure domestic supply.

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