The world's top economies seek Thursday to reach a deal to boost food security by limiting market speculation seen as behind recent price spikes that have hit consumers' pocketbooks and sparked unrest.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged G20 agriculture ministers to come together to cure one of market capitalism's greatest illnesses.
"By addressing the volatility of agricultural markets, in assuring food security for the world for today and tomorrow, we will rebalance the structure of capitalism," Sarkozy told the ministers on Wednesday as they began their first-ever meeting.
The Group of 20 top nations pledged to contain agricultural commodity volatility in the wake of the 2007-2008 surge in food prices, widely blamed on speculation, that triggered riots in some countries.
Fresh price spikes at the beginning of this year, seen as helping fuel the Arab Spring revolts, have kept the issue on the front-burner.
The ministers will seek to overcome divisions in their Thursday talks to adopt an action plan to stifle speculation and improve market transparency.
"In adopting this plan you will change not only the lives of a billion farmers but the course of capitalism itself so capitalism once again contributes to the development and well-being of people," Sarkozy said.
Last week, French officials said there were still major divisions on key issues, but Brazilian Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi said Wednesday that an agreement was close.
"I think we are very close to a consensus," Rossi told journalists.
France has made limiting speculation and reining in markets a centrepiece of its G20 presidency and said it will accept no fudges on key issues.
Paris wants changes such as limits on the participation of purely financial actors in the agricultural commodity markets.
Countries such as the United States, Britain, Australia and Brazil however are concerned that such limits could crimp futures and derivatives markets, which are increasingly vital to farmers and processors.
Rossi said Brazil "will oppose any measures which impede the market, for example anything that would amount to price controls."
There is also disagreement over increasing transparency on agricultural commodities production and stocks, with France hoping G20 nations will pledge to submit data to a newly created global data network.
Paucity of information on agricultural production and stocks is widely seen as fuelling speculation but countries such as China and India are still reluctant to share information they view as important to national security, diplomats said.
Biofuels are another contentious issue, with poverty relief groups disappointed that the draft G20 document does not acknowledge that the use of food crops to produce fuels is helping push up prices and causing hunger.
They are also disappointed that G20 nations may only back a pilot programme for humanitarian food aid reserves, a prominent idea to emerge from the 2007-2008 food price crisis.
It was also unclear what if any pledges G20 nations will make on not slapping temporary export barriers on agricultural commodities.
Without major policy changes food prices will likely be high and volatile for the next decade, driven by rising incomes in emerging nations and demand for biofuel, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and UN Food and Agricultural Organization warned last week.
Long-term price increases of up to 20 percent for cereals and 30 percent for meat can be expected over the decade while agricultural production will have to increase 70 percent by the middle of this century to meet expected population growth and avoid widespread hunger.