Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sibal trashes Bush’s ‘eating more’ accusation

New Delhi: Unimpressed by US President George W Bush's hypothesis of a better eating India causing woes for the US, the UPA government dished out figures to claim that American cereal consumption had gone up substantially despite a significant decline in food production in North America. Quoting Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) figures, minister for science and technology Kapil Sibal on Wednesday said cereal intake in India was projected to have grown by a mere 2.17% from 193.1 million tonnes in 2006-07 to 197.3 million tonnes in 2007-08. Around the same time, the Americans had eaten a lot more, Sibal claimed. "In the same period, consumption of cereals in the US has been projected to have grown from 277.6 million tonnes to 310.4 million tonnes," the minister said. In fact, the Chinese -- another people accused by Bush of gluttony -- actually ate moderately. According to the FAO figures quoted by Sibal, cereal consumption in China had gone up by just 1.8%. The Americans have indeed eaten much more than the rest of world. While the world average of increased cereal intake for the past year was 2.06%, that for the US was a whopping 11.81%. Pointing to India and China, Bush had said, "When you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price (in the US) to go up." Statistics released by the UN body also suggest that the rising level of cereal consumption in the US has occurred in the backdrop of a sharp decline in production in North America. When continents like Asia and Africa are set to register rise in cereal production, North America is the only area of concern where the output has declined from 462.1 million tonnes in 2007 to 435.5 million tonnes in 2008. All major political parties lashed out at the US President for blaming the growing demand in India for the spiralling global food prices. Reacting sharply to the remark coming from George Bush, most parties said a major reason for spiralling global food prices was diversion of land producing foodcrops in the US to bio-fuel production. US has no right to blame India for rising prices, they said.

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