News / Africa

Food Security Tops Agenda of Paris Meeting

A Angolan woman cuts maize at Lombolombo neighborhood in Cabinda January 24, 2010. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
A Angolan woman cuts maize at Lombolombo neighborhood in Cabinda January 24, 2010. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

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Joe DeCapua

G20 agricultural ministers gather next week in Paris to discuss food security. It’s the ministers’ first-ever official meeting as a group.

They’ll try to develop a plan to deal with current food price volatility, as well as longer term goals of solving poverty and extreme hunger.

“I think it’s potentially very important,” said Shenggen Fan, Director-General of IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research Institute, “But on the other hand if I look at their draft declaration I think they could much, much more.”

Biofuels and smallholder farms

Fan agrees with much that’s on the agenda, such as increasing agricultural productivity, making marketing information more transparent, improving international coordination on food policy, establishing social protections for the poor and setting stricter financial regulations to limit speculation.

However, Fan said ministers are not addressing the issues of Biofuel and smallholder farmers.

“The expansion of Biofuels has been a major cause of the food crisis in 2007, 2008 and 2010, 2011. So if we don’t do something about Biofuels, I will guarantee the food prices will remain very high and food prices will remain very volatile,” he said.

He disagrees with those who say Biofuels do not affect food production, because crops are specifically grown for that purpose and were never meant to be part of the food chain.

“This is not correct,” said Fan, “The total land is very limited, right? If you set aside land for producing Biofuels, then you have less land for producing food. Second, indeed, because of the Biofuels production, many countries have reduced their exports, have reduced their stock. U.S. is one of them.”

The issue of smallholder farms gained much attention at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy in 2009, following the food crisis. However, Fan said the agricultural ministers are not scheduled to address this issue.

“In 2009, G8 committed $22 billion to support agriculture activity, to support smallholders. But to date, only about a quarter of that has been met,” said Fan, “So, they need to do much, much more to make sure that what they pledged in 2009 will be met before they make any new declarations.”

Smallholder farmers make up a large part of the world’s poor and hungry.

“These challenges, however, are not insurmountable,” said an IFPRI statement, “and may actually present opportunities. Successes during the Green revolution in Asia and more recent accomplishments in Africa show that rapid increases in crop productivity among smallholder farmers can be achieved.”

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