As the ties that bind the world’s nations together fray under the tension of trade disputes and protectionist policies, a special ceremony on June 12 at the Japanese Embassy in London celebrated one organization’s seminal contribution to promoting global agricultural free trade.

The nearly 200 people attending the ceremony raised their champagne glasses to toast the 70th anniversary of the International Grains Council (IGC), a London-based intergovernmental organization that continues to successfully carry out its mission to further international cooperation in grains trade, promote expansion openness and fairness in the grain sector and contribute to grain market stability and enhance world food security.

It was an honor to be invited to this gala event, which featured notable grain industry leaders from every continent.

Arnaud Petit, executive director of the IGC, told the gathering that in the last 70 years the IGC has extended its coverage to monitor trade in 16 commodities, including food staples. Currently, the IGC provides daily cost and freight prices for more than 200 routes, reflecting total costs of global trade in grains and oilseeds.

“All this information enhances transparency in international markets and supports policy decision-making processes,” he said. “Through the IGC Grains Conference, the organization has also developed a platform of regular dialogue between the public and private sectors.”

The IGC’s growth in recent years also has included joining the Secretariat of the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), an initiative that was established at the request of the agricultural ministers of the G20. It covers four crops — wheat, corn, rice and soybeans — and aims to promote food market transparency and the coordination of policy action in response to market uncertainty.

As a magazine that for 37 years has covered the global grain industry, we at World Grain know how difficult it is to obtain accurate and insightful crop information, particularly in less developed countries. Nobody does this better than the IGC, and with each passing year the Council seems to expand both the number of crops it includes in its reports as well as the types of statistics it provides on these grains and oilseeds.

In times like these, organizations like the IGC become even more important as their work emphasizes the importance of transparency and free trade in a sector that cannot thrive without them.

Speaking at the IGC Conference earlier that day, Rabobank’s Stefan Vogel made a case for why free trade of agricultural products will become more vital in the coming years and why it’s imperative that the countries now engaged in trade wars reach lasting agreements that will benefit everyone involved. He noted that trade is increasingly following patterns of comparative advantage, with exports taking place from regions with abundant land and natural resources to regions with scarce land and water availability and booming populations. In other words, the gap between the haves and the have nots in grain production is widening.

“Expect trade to become more and more important rather than less important over the next decade,” Vogel said.

As the importance of trade grows, so will the role of the IGC and its mission to further international cooperation in grain trading and enhance world food security. We are confident the organization will rise to the occasion, just as it has for the last 70 years.