PARIS (Reuters) - Agriculture ministers of the Group of 20 leading economies will meet in Paris on June 22-23 to review a set of actions to tame global food price volatility. Here are profiles of the officials.
Bruno Le Maire, 42, was appointed in 2009. He was previously chief of staff of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin before becoming a junior European minister.
Hailed as one of France’s best agriculture ministers of recent years, Le Maire has adroitly preserved the right’s close links with farmers despite a drought this spring, and the impact of an E.coli outbreak on French vegetable producers.
A graduate of France’s prestigious top-flight civil servant school ENA and fluent German speaker, with expertise of European Union negotiations, he is tipped as a possible finance minister if Christine Lagarde is appointed as the new chief of the International Monetary Fund by June 30. [ID:nLDE75D096]
However, with farm reform at the heart of the G20 agenda and Le Maire having proven his worth in placating farmers at home, some political observers doubt French President Nicolas Sarkozy would choose to move him on now.
Tom Vilsack, 59, was two-term governor of Iowa, one of the major U.S. farm states, before his appointment as agriculture secretary in 2009. A strong proponent of biofuels as a lever for rural economic growth, Vilsack is a lawyer by training and entered politics in 1987 as mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Caroline Spelman, 51, was appointed in May 2010. Before entering parliament, Spelman worked in the farm sector in roles including deputy director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers, research fellow for the Centre for European Agricultural Studies and director at Spelman, Cormack and Associates, Food and Biotechnology Consultancy.
Ilse Aigner, 46, took office in 2008 as a backbench member of parliament with no previous ministerial experience. The trained engineer from the CSU conservative party in the southern state of Bavaria, has made a name for herself as a tough crisis manager. She has become a national figure while handling a series of food scandals.
Francesco Saverio Romano, 46, became farm minister in March 2011, prompting President Giorgio Napolitano to express reservations over his appointment as he is under judicial investigation. According to judicial sources, Romano has been under investigation by anti-mafia authorities in Palermo for several years for involvement in corruption and aiding the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia. Romano has said he has a clean conscience. [ID:nLDE72M1Y1]
Mehdi Eker, 55, was appointed in 2005. During the bird flu epidemic of 2005, he made a statement that it was safe to eat cooked chicken and then famously refused to do so on television.
Gerry Ritz, 60, is a former farmer who has been farm minister since 2007. After his right-leaning conservative party won a majority in the May general election, Ritz said the government would scrap the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing monopoly on wheat and barley from Western Canada, by August 2012. In recent years, Ritz has sought to eliminate trade barriers for Canadian farm products in China and elsewhere.
Francisco Mayorga Castaneda, 60, has served as secretary of agriculture since September 2009. He had previously served in the same post from September 2005 to November 2006 in the administration of President Vicente Fox.
Appointed in 2009, Julian Dominguez, 48, has improved tense relations between the government and farmers, who had sparked a political crisis in 2008 with a series of strikes against soy export taxes. He has won over some farmers with a friendlier and more pragmatic tone, even if unpopular government farm policies such as wheat and corn export quotas have remained in place.
Wagner Goncalves Rossi, a 68-year old Sao Paulo native, started his career as an entrepreneur and rural producer. He headed Brazil’s crop supply agency Conab before becoming President Dilma Rousseff’s farm minister in March 2010.
Yelena Skrynnik, 40, was appointed in March 2009. She has a PhD in economy after initially training to be a medical doctor. From 2001 to 2009, she headed the state-run agro-industrial leasing company Rosagroleasing. It was under her stewardship that Moscow imposed a unilateral ban on grain exports in August last year after one of the most severe drought in Russia’s history ravaged its harvests.
Han Changfu, 56, was appointed in 2009. He had previously been the governor of the Jilin province since 2007. He was also a former vice agriculture minister. He graduated from the Agricultural Economics Department of Renmin University of China.
Michihiko Kano, 69, briefly served as Agriculture Minister at the turn of the 1990s, dealing with the Uruguay Round under the GATT and negotiations to open up Japan’s beef and orange markets, which was a contentious issue with the United States.
In April he banned the cultivation of rice in any soil found to contain high levels of radioactive celsium following a major accident at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Yoo Jeong-bok, 54, was appointed last summer. He had been serving as a member of the parliamentary committee for land, transport and maritime affairs. Jeong-Bok told Reuters in April South Korea planned sweeping changes in its grain growing and import policies in the face of rising global food prices.
Suswono, 52, was appointed in 2009. A native of Central Java, and legislator from the Justice Prosperity Party (PKS), he previously served as deputy chairman of the parliament’s Commission IV in charge of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries and food. He has a PhD in livestock issues.
Queensland native Joe Ludwig, 52, graduated in law and began his career as an industrial inspector and training consultant before moving to the Australian Workers’ union. He was appointed agriculture minister last year.
Sharad Pawar, 70, India’s powerful minister of agriculture, consumer affairs, food and public distribution since 2009, comes from the Maharashtra state, the country’s top sugar producing region. He is the founder of the Nationalist Congress Party, a key ally of the ruling federal coalition.
Tina Joemat-Pettersson, 47, was appointed in May 2009. A member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. She has played a major role in assisting South African maize farmers to secure export markets outside Africa.
Fahad Balghunaim, 58, has been farm minister since 2003. He was previously a member of the kingdom’s Shura Council - an advisory body of appointees - and was deputy minister of fisheries, ministry of agriculture and water in 1990.
Compiled by Muriel Boselli, Sybille de la Hamaide and Marie Maitre; editing by Keiron Henderson