News / Africa

Trade Barriers Impede Food Security

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

When the food crisis began several years ago, with soaring prices and supply shortages, governments agreed to invest much more in agriculture. And with predictions of a global population of nine billion by 2050, the need for more food has become increasingly urgent. But some say food security cannot be achieved unless trade barriers are removed.

The Global Harvest Initiative says improving food and agricultural trade flows in the coming decades will help counter the effects of changing weather patterns, population shifts and limited natural resources. The initiative began in 2009 with a partnership of big business, including Archer Daniels Midland Company, DuPont, John Deere and Monsanto.

Trade Barriers Impede Food Security
Trade Barriers Impede Food Security

“Trade is actually very closely linked to global hunger and food security. And I think that it’s something that needs to be talked about more and more. The way that it really plays in is that markets are a big part of either the problem or the solution in addressing hunger and food security. Not only are they really the way that food moves from places of supply to places of demand, but they also play a big role in the decisions that farmers make about how much they should produce and what they should produce and when,” said Katrin Kuhlman, director of TransFarm Africa, also a member of the Global Harvest initiative.

TransFarm Africa is part of the Aspen Institute, which says its core mission is to foster enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Kuhlman said dropping trade barriers opens markets and gives farmers more incentives to produce.

“Farmers, just like any other business people, will decide what to produce based on what they see the market to be. And if they don’t see that the market is open they won’t produce as much. So, it factors really directly into productivity as well. So it’s not only the channel to move things back and forth, but it’s also impacting what farmers will actually decide to produce,” she said.

Easier said than done

But negotiating trade deals is often difficult. The Doha Round of World Trade Organization trade talks began in 2001. The goal is to lower trade barriers, but progress has been slow. There are major differences between rich and developing nations, including the use of agricultural subsidies.

Kuhlman says a different approach may be needed to resolve some of those differences.

“Part of what we need to do is sort of take ourselves back to the barriers themselves and to the investments and opportunities that those barriers are impeding. And if we do that instead of sometimes starting with the big negotiating round or the big agreement, I think that we’ll find that we can come up with different solutions for addressing the barriers and more practical and tangible ways that we can get at them,” she said.

She added that a demand-driven approach can help remove trade barriers.

“Very often the process itself will not work unless you have a way to test it. So countries will put in place different laws and regulations, but those don’t really come to life until you have an actual business that’s going in and saying here’s what we’re trying to do. We have this opportunity that’s being impacted by this barrier and we need to find a way to remove it. And then, I think, you see things start to change,” said Kuhlman.

This means possibly removing trade barriers on a case-by-case basis.

Own backyard

The head of TransFarm Africa said developing nations should not only take part in global talks, but also take a closer look at any trade barriers in their own markets.

In places like sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the market that’s really most critical in some ways is the regional market. Countries need to do things within their own borders to remove barriers to trade. But the regional markets are so important in sub-Saharan Africa and without finding ways to really facilitate trade in those regional markets, looking ahead to global markets is almost 10 steps removed. But really focusing on things regionally will open up trade all along the chain,” she said.

At the same time, Kuhlman said if rich nations are serious about dealing with food security, they also need to make their markets as open as possible to developing nations.

How important achieving food security?

“I don’t think that there’s a way to do it without addressing barriers to markets and without making trade flow more freely. And I think that we really are at a stage right now where we need to think very, very seriously about how to do this,” she said.

Business, she said, should be part of the process.

In April, World Trade Organization members pledged to find a way out of the trade talks deadlock. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told members to think hard about “the consequences of throwing away ten years of solid multilateral work.” He called on members to “use the upcoming weeks to talk to each other and build bridges." Lamy is scheduled to give an update on the situation on May 31.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid