News / Economy

Food Prices Top G-20 Farm Ministers Meeting Agenda

High food prices have pushed an estimated 44 million more people into poverty in the past year, according to the World Bank. France says taming food price volatility is one of its major goals as current head of the Group of 20 leading and emerging economies. For the first time, G-20 agriculture ministers will meet in Paris from June 22-23.

The reasons and remedies for today’s volatile food prices are complex, says French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, and finding consensus among the G20 members has been a challenge. "I think at the beginning of the negotiation I was quite pessimistic," he said.

For example, there are contentious debates over the role of price speculation in the commodity markets. Investors have poured billions of dollars into these markets in just the past few years. Critics say that is fueling sharp spikes in prices. Le Maire says that while the investors profit, the developing world feels the pain. "Nobody can accept to have speculation on the poorest countries in the world, on the poorest people in the world," Le Maire added.

France is leading calls for more regulations on commodity trading.

But many economists are not convinced that would help. They say the evidence does not prove the case that the flood of new investment money is really behind the price spikes.

Le Maire says this has been one of the most difficult areas of discussion. But he is hopeful the agriculture ministers can find common ground. “After 10 months of negotiation, I really think that a consensus among G-20 members is not out of reach,” he said.

Le Maire says he would also like to see G-20 members reach a consensus to oppose export bans in response to crises. Russia suspended its wheat exports last summer after a serious drought cut its harvest by a third. Although the move was intended to protect Russia’s own food supplies, it was widely condemned for contributing to this year’s run-up in wheat prices.

Shenggen Fan, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, says he does not expect the G-20 to pledge to keep markets open.  “I think probably we will not reach certain agreement. But maybe some language will be there. Countries should be discouraged to use export bans to safeguard their own domestic food security. By doing that they will starve their neighbors,” Fan said.

Fan says there may be an agreement to exempt humanitarian food supplies from a ban, but not much more.

One of the biggest and most controversial issues in the food security debate that will likely not be addressed is the role of biofuels. National policies in the United States, Europe and Brazil support the use of food crops to produce fuel. Fan is one of many critics. “We know that biofuel has been a major cause of [the] last two rounds of food price increases. So, we do need to take urgent actions to prevent further expansion of biofuel production,” Fan said.

But these industries have strong domestic political support, and France did not include biofuels on the agenda for the Paris meeting.

On the positive side, analysts say the G-20 ministers might agree to set up an emergency grain reserve that can provide food supplies in humanitarian crises.

And there may be another financial commitment to help developing-world farmers become more productive. G8 leaders pledged $22 billion for this purpose in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009.

But experts estimate that only about a quarter of that money has been delivered so far, and budgets are extremely tight in many G-20 countries. Charlotte Hebebrand of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council says wealthy countries should break the habit of over-promising and under-delivering.

“I think countries are going to lose credibility when these ambitious pledges are announced to great fanfare and then they are not implemented,” Hebebrand said.

On some levels, experts say what is most significant about the G-20 agriculture ministers meeting is that it is happening at all. Agriculture has been a neglected issue for years, which is part of the reason for the current crisis. The next challenge for the farm ministers, they say, is to convince their bosses to keep food security high on the agenda.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8770
JPY
USD
119.68
GBP
USD
0.6414
CAD
USD
1.3265
INR
USD
66.194

Rates may not be current.