ROME, ITALY — Argentina will export an additional 2.75 million tonnes of maize from its 2011-12 crop, the country's Minister of Agriculture Norberto Yauhar told United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva when they met at FAO headquarters on Sept. 14.
This will increase the amount of maize to be exported by Argentina from that harvest to 16.45 million tonnes.
"The additional shipments, together with recent better-than-expected figures from the US Department of Agriculture, should help ease tight international markets," Yauhar said.
Argentina, the world's second biggest maize exporter, was responsible for roughly of 15% of the world's maize exports in the last three years.
"This goes to show that there is no threat of a global food crisis at present, although we must continue to be vigilant and monitor the situation closely," Graziano da Silva said.
The minister spoke about the prospects for the upcoming harvest, noting that the outlook for both rainfall and plantings of maize and soybeans were very positive. He added that Argentina has already earmarked 15 million tonnes of maize and 5 million tonnes of wheat for export for the 2012-13 season.
Minister Yauhar also noted that Argentina maintains reserves of 1 million tonnes of maize and one million tonnes of wheat.
"For FAO, maintaining food security reserves is a very good strategy that contributes to the stability of domestic prices of food," said Graziano da Silva.
Yauhar added that during an official mission to China this week he and the Chinese Minister of Agriculture discussed the possibility of having strategic food security reserves at the regional and international levels.
The Director-General expressed interest and support for this proposal and said that he would discuss this issue in his upcoming visit to China in early October.
Graziano da Silva and Yauhar also noted that the world is now better placed to cope with higher food prices than during the crisis of 2007-08. One reason is Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).
Established in 2011 by the G20, AMIS contributes to increase market transparency and reduce price volatility and includes the Rapid Reaction Forum (RRF), which makes it possible for countries to coordinate action and respond faster to volatile food price situations.
The FAO Director-General and the Minister of Agriculture of Argentina agreed it was important that countries use international mechanisms such as AMIS instead of taking unilateral action.
They also noted that there was also better coordination within the United Nations System through the UN High Level Task Force on Global Food Security.
This summer's drought in the U.S. - the worst in over 50 years - fuelled fears of a food crisis when the FAO Food Price Index, which measures the prices of internationally-traded commodities, surged six percent in July.  The Index was unchanged last month, however.
Among other issues, Graziano da Silva and Yauhar discussed the possible contribution of speculation to increased food price volatility. Improved, coordinated regulation of trade and financial markets should be central to the international community's response, they agreed.
They also voiced concern at the possible impact of price volatility on national food security and concurred on the need for strengthening social protection, including social safety nets and support to local crops production. In this context, they highlighted that diversifying diets to consume more local produced food such as beans, cassava and quinoa — 2013 is the International Year of the Quinoa — were strategies that help poor populations cope with high food prices.
Graziano da Silva and Yauhar also stressed the need for the international donor community to increase its immediate and long-term support to poor countries. According to WFP, every 10% increase in the price of its food basket means finding an additional $200 million a year to buy the same amount of food. In the longer term, it is important to strengthen programmes that enable poor families to buy or produce their own food to reduce their dependency on direct assistance.
But they also noted that the recovery of food prices could play a positive role in stimulating agricultural investment and production in developing countries. However, that would only happen if farmers received appropriate support and countries provided the enabling environment for investment, they underlined.