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People arrive for the G20 agriculture ministers meeting in Berlin, Germany, January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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By Michael Hogan

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Greater global efforts should be taken to safeguard precious world water supplies to secure food production, the agriculture ministers of the group of 20 leading economies (G20) said on Sunday.

"We commit to approaches that improve sustainability of water use in food and agricultural production while ensuring food security and nutrition in accordance with our multilateral trade commitments," they said in a statement after meeting in Berlin.

Climate change, the growing world population and demands for industrialisation have put a strain on global water supplies, with the impact felt on rich and poor nations.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation warned in December that 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia need food aid as farmers struggle with the impact of repeated droughts, compelling Ethiopia to make major wheat imports.

Saudi Arabia has been ending its crop farming to save precious water and has been importing food instead.

"We will protect water and water-related ecosystems by encouraging water-friendly, sustainable agricultural practices and technologies that enhance the water quality and resilience of water bodies," the G20 statement on Sunday said.

"We are therefore committed to developing and implementing corresponding strategies at the national level," it added.

Global farming needs sustainable water supplies to feed the growing world population and provide the basis for world peace and stability, the meeting's host, German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt, said.

"Agriculture is a part of global security politics," he said.

The G20 ministers also committed themselves to reducing animal diseases but to prevent the unnecessary use of antibiotic drugs in farming.

Germany took over the presidency of the G20 group of leading economies in late 2016, a platform Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to use to safeguard multilateral cooperation.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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