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In this Aug. 22, 2012 photo, Serbian farmer Radovan Krstic shows the poor quality of his corn crop in the village of Trstenica, Serbia.DARKO VOJINOVIC/The Associated Press

High and volatile food prices are here to stay and countries need to ensure they have sufficient stockpiles, the head of the United Nations food agency said in an interview on Monday.

"Food prices will remain elevated and will be highly volatile in the next 10 years," Food and Agricultural Organization chief Jose Graziano da Silva said in an interview with the French daily Le Monde.

"To ensure food security and face up to higher prices, each country should ensure they have stocks to cover their needs for between a week and a month," he added.

The FAO's Food Price Index, a monthly measure of changes in a basket of food commodities, shot up six per cent in July, with drought sending prices of corn and wheat soaring.

Mr. Graziano said the situation is not as threatening as in 2007-2008 when soaring food prices triggered riots, as the price for rice, which is the largest staple, remains steady.

He estimated that international co-ordination had improved thanks to an initiative to increase transparency on agricultural markets brought about by the Group of 20 top economies.

France, Mexico and the United States were due to hold a conference call on Monday to discuss whether to call under the aegis of the G20 a meeting to plan responses to the rising prices.

"The first convocation of this forum shouldn't be interpreted as a sign of panic, but the desire for better co-ordination," said Mr. Graziano.

He urged countries to discontinue using food crops such as corn to produce fuels, but said such a problem could be avoided in the future as the biofuel technology advances and non-food crops are increasingly used.

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