An action plan on food price volatility and food security was agreed at the recent meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers in Paris on 22-23 June 2011. The 56 point action plan will be submitted to the G20 leaders’ summit in November 2011.
At the G20 Summit, the agriculture ministers stressed that strong global governance was an indispensable element in achieving global food security. For developing countries, improving food security early warning systems and vulnerability assessments are important ways to deal with crises before they lead to hunger. The group launched an array of new programmes, including the Agricultural Markets Information System, which will encourage global agri-businesses to share data. Also launched was the International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement, to co-ordinate wheat research efforts. Programmes to lift rice yields are also seen as important in strengthening food security. Conference attendees also agreed that developing an agricultural policy that improves nutrition is an important requirement, particularly in the developing world.
The G20 group of nations seem to be eager to tackle the issue, with more meetings planned.
In September, the first G20 conference on agricultural research involving agricultural research centres, will be held in Montpellier, France. An agricultural productivity conference will be held in October 2011.
One of the challenges, however, for the G20 leaders will be to recognise the limitations to their power. Food price fluctuations depend largely on the decisions of the private sector and are beyond the control of government.
For that reason, the vision of national governments as leaders in developing food security will need to overcome two major hurdles.
The first is to bring the private sector into the fold. It determines food prices and plans distribution. The likes of Unilever, Nestlé and Montana, to name just a few, will want to see a benefit in sharing information and working alongside governments. Second, even if some companies do agree that something should be done and that they can play a leading role, they will still need to agree on actions that are in concert with those of governments. Again, this is a difficult ask given the different motivating forces driving government and the private sector.
Without such private sector involvement, the action plans of the G20 countries and other groups will always be on the periphery of lasting solutions.
Further reading: https://www.g20.utoronto.ca/agriculture/index.html
FDI Global Food and Water Security Research Programme