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EU biofuel aid 'inflates food cost'

European Union support for biofuel production could force the price of food crop staples up by as much as 36% by the end of the decade, a report has warned.

Development charity ActionAid warned that the allocation of ever-growing acres of farmland to producing crops for fuel was already a "major contributor to world hunger" and could make the problem worse in the years to come.

But the subject will not be on the table at next week's summit of the G20 group of major economic powers in Mexico, said the charity's policy adviser Clare Coffey.

ActionAid urged leaders including David Cameron to rethink Europe's mandatory target of 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020, which has made the EU the world's biggest producer and consumer of biodiesel.

In a report, the charity cited estimates that EU biodiesel use could push oil seed prices up by as much as 20% and vegetable oils 36% by 2020, while EU ethanol consumption could lift maize prices by 22% and sugar by 21%.

Already, 66% of vegetable oils from crops grown in the EU are used for biofuels, said the report. Global production of biofuels has increased from 16 billion to 100 billion litres between 2000 and 2010 and is forecast to grow strongly.

Ms Coffey said: "Biofuels will be the elephant in the room at the G20 summit as no-one there is prepared to speak out on the subject. Yet by getting rid of biofuel mandates, David Cameron and other world leaders could at the stroke of a pen tackle a key factor behind world food price rises and volatility.

"The G20 must acknowledge the significant role of biofuels in worsening global food security. A billion people around the world are already malnourished. EU and other countries are sleep-walking their way to a global food security disaster."

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