Plan for enhancing food security revealed

by Josh Sosland
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An ambitious action plan with the ultimate objective of enhancing food security will be submitted to heads of state at a G20 Summit set for November, according to an outline of the plan issued following a meeting of G20 agricultural ministers June 22-23 in Paris.

While food price volatility attracted considerable attention at the meeting and within the ministerial declaration, the need for enhanced food security was emphasized as the group’s principal focus, both longer term and in coming years.

“World population is projected to reach more than 9 billion by the middle of this century,” the ministers said. “Much of this increase is projected to occur in developing countries, which currently face the greatest level of food insecurity.”

The group cited projections that agricultural production will need to grow by 70% over this period, up nearly 100% in developing countries.

Against this backdrop, the group reaffirmed its belief in the right of all to “safe, sufficient, and nutritious food.”

To strengthen food security, steps must be taken to improve access and availability, an issue that is particularly important for women and children in developing countries, the ministers said.

With food security in mind, the group stressed the need for increased agricultural productivity and for improved and more effective agricultural policies. Addressing issues of food security will require “improvements” in land and water management, and improved agricultural technologies,” the group said.

Regarding excessive price volatility, the ministers said the wild price swings have a negative impact on access to food by the poor and on producers, and could “hamper investments and an effective market response to a long-term increase in demand for food.”


Overall, the declaration identified five principal objectives in its action plan:

• Improve agricultural production and productivity, both in the short and long term in order to respond to a growing demand for agricultural commodities.
• Increase market information and transparency in order to better anchor expectations from governments and economic operators.
• Strengthen international markets and to prevent and respond to food market crisis more
• Improve and develop risk management tools for governments, firms and farmers in order to build capacity to manage and mitigate the risks associated with food price volatility, in particular in the poorest countries.
• Improve the functioning of agricultural commodities’ derivatives markets.

The ministers skirted around a number of agricultural issues that remain highly contentious internationally. While advocating improvements in agricultural technology, there is no mention of the role of agricultural biotechnology.

Similarly, the group called for “further cooperation in strengthening international governance of agricultural trade in favor of open global markets.” While calling for a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Round, no path toward resolving the thorny issues that have held up an agreement was offered.

Also, somewhat vague were references to climate change in the context of the food security objectives.

“We recall the triple challenge for agriculture: meeting food security objectives while adapting to climate change and reducing its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” the declaration said. “This requires (growers) to improve the efficiency, productivity and adaptive capacity of agricultural systems in a sustainable manner.”

Still another issue lightly touched in the declaration were the “challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels.” The group called for analysis to be conducted on the relationship between biofuels production and food availability, price increases and volatility and agricultural sustainability.

More substantive were proposals regarding market information and transparency.

“We recognize the importance of timely, accurate and transparent information in helping to address food price volatility, and agree on the need to improve the quality, reliability, accuracy, timeliness and comparability of data on agricultural markets (production, consumption and stocks),” the ministers said. “We decided to launch the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) in order to encourage major players on the agri-food markets to share data, to enhance existing information systems, to promote greater shared understanding of food price developments, and further policy dialogue and cooperation. The AMIS will involve G20 countries in the early stage and invite other main grain and oilseeds producing, exporting and importing countries, representatives from major commodity exchange markets and the private sector to participate."

The Secretariat of AMIS will be housed in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy and will include a number of international organizations including the FAO, World Bank, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Food Policy Research Institute, World Food Programme, World Trade Organization and others. In view of its experience and expertise, the London-based International Grains Council will be cooperating in the development of this initiative.

The AMIS Global Food Market Information Team’s first meeting is scheduled for September. Comprehensive food market indicators will be developed between January and March 2012, and data collection, examination and consolidation will be carried out by the AMIS Secretariat beginning in March 2012. The collection of data will be realized by means of electronic questionnaires and an AMIS collaborative website where participating countries will directly input the data. The first enhanced global market outlook and situation (the main information product of AMIS) will be published by June 2012, the ministers said.

AMIS will improve agricultural market outlook and forecasts at both national and international levels for wheat, maize, rice and soybeans, with plans for additional commodities to be added in the future.

Even as the group recognized the importance of free and open agricultural trade, the ministers acknowledged the need for “targeted safety nets.” The ministers supported the development of a proposal for a “targeted emergency humanitarian food reserve system” to complement regional and
national reserves.

The proposal is for the system to cover a limited group of countries selected from Low Income Food Deficit Countries as determined by FAO and Least Developed Countries as defined by the United Nations General Assembly in a particular region.


Still more specific was an appendix document calling for creation of an International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI). The main objective of the program will be cooperation in “worldwide bread and durum wheat improvement and research efforts in the fields of genomics, genetics and agronomy, to increase food security, wheat nutritional value and safety while taking into account societal demands for resilient agricultural production systems.”

The two-page proposal offered an extensive timetable for the IRIWI, including the creation of an International Wheat Research Coordination Committee to be set up before the end of August. The committee will author a vision paper and strategic plan to develop a common research agenda to be undertaken beginning in January 2012.

The committee will determine the best platform for the wheat centralized information system and plans to have the system operating by March 2012.

The IRIWI will be presented to the wheat scientific community during the 2011 International Triticae Mapping Initiative Workshop Sept. 5-9 in Mexico to ensure input and support from the international community. On Sept. 15, a meeting which will include international wheat scientific leaders, CEOs from major G20 countries and international research organizations and representatives of the G20 countries will be held in Paris to implement the first steps of the IRIWI.

The IRIWI will also be presented to the International Grains Council in December, to the German Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in January 2012 and the next Grain Summit in Saint Petersburg in June 2012.

“IRIWI will pave the way to similar initiatives for other crops constituting the predominant basis of human nutrition (rice, maize, millet, sorghum, root crops, barley, legumes, etc.),” the group said.

Beyond this general reference in the appendix, specific mention was made in the main document of the critical role of rice as a food grain for much of the world.

“We recognize the importance of rice for food security as the main crop consumed in Asia and increasingly Africa,” the ministers said. “We stress the importance of strengthening rice research and development and dissemination of its outcome and relevant cultivation technique to accelerate production and productivity growth in rice-producing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa.”