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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7866
JPY
USD
109.25
GBP
USD
0.6139
CAD
USD
1.1120
INR
USD
61.428

Rates may not be current.