Friday, June 15, 2012

Food and Nutrition Security Should Stay High on the Agenda at the G20 Meetings
By Shenggen Fan
Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
June 15, 2012
Food and nutrition security must remain at the top of the agendaas G20 leaders prepare to meet in Los Cabos, Mexico next week. Severe food and nutrition insecurity continues to persist, the key drivers behind the food crises in 2007/08 and 2011 have not been resolved, and the current global economic crisis is further worsening the situation. According to the 2011 Global Hunger Index, more than 50 countries are experiencing “extremely alarming,” “alarming,” or “serious” levels of hunger; Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia continue to be hunger hot spots. 

Ensuring food and nutrition security will become even more difficult due to the growing complexity of global challenges, such as population growth, increasing consumer demand from the growing middle class in developing countries, high and volatile food prices, energy scarcity, and climate change. Against this worrisome background, development aid from donors dropped for the first time in 15 years, falling by 3 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Last year’s G20 Summit led to important actions in strengthening global food security efforts and resolving problems related to price spikes and volatility. Of these actions, one that has shown progress is the creation of the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which includes indicators such as the Excessive Food Price Variability Warning System developed by IFPRI and the Rapid Response Forum (RRF). However, progress has been slow on most of the other actions. For example, the Agricultural Price Risk Management tool has not shown significant progress and only the Agricultural Price Risk Management (APRM) + Platform on Agricultural Risk Management (PARM) has been launched but it still needs validation, and no clear action has been taken with regard to other risk-coping tools. Similarly, there has not been significant progress on financial regulation and the regional humanitarian reserves pilot. 

This year, the G20 must take additional steps to rein in food price volatility byaddressing structural problems and responding to long-term drivers of food security. Priority actions should include assuring the implementation of the action plan of 2011 by reducing the competition between food and fuel, promoting free and open trade to calm food markets, and supporting regional humanitarian food reserves to address food emergencies. 

G20 leaders should also continue to emphasize innovative partnerships to address food security issues, including strengthening the engagement of nonstate actors, especially the private sector, in global food security efforts. In addition, the G20 is an opportunity to engage with emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China as they increase their role in global policymaking, especially in forging South–South cooperation. 

While price volatility is still an issue, this year there is also a strong focus on increasing food production and productivity, promoting food security, and fostering economic growth in a sustainable manner. G20 leaders should focus on productivity and assuring sustainability, by examining agricultural research and development and crop yield stagnation. 

Scaled-up investments in science and technology and support for improved country capacities are fundamental to accelerating progress and achieving development objectives. Technological innovations such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and biofortification, are crucial to increasing agricultural productivity, building resilience to weather-related shocks, enhancing the nutritional value of food crops, and ensuring food safety. Similarly significant efforts should be made to improve the access to inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizer.

IFPRI makes the following recommendations to the G20 policymakers:
  • Speed up progress on action-plan items from previous G20 meetings and develop clear accountability indicators;
  • Keep food and nutrition security at the top of the agenda of current and future G20 meetings;
  • Invest in agricultural research and development and improve farmers’ access to improved seeds and fertilizer;
  • Improve information to better prioritize needed investment to increase sustainable agricultural productivity;
  • Avoid excessive market speculation by providing more timely, accurate information on food prices, stocks and production;
  • Increase the availability of weather information to improve the capacity of appropriate early warning mechanisms to climate shocks and to increase the availability of weather index insurance suppliers; and
  • Enable a positive environment in which to increase and link private and public investments in agriculture and encourage mutual accountability between governments, the public and private sectors, and civil society.
IFPRI, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, contributed to the International Organization and B20 documents to provide background information and recommendations for the G20 members. As a premium global food policy research institute, IFPRI is well positioned to share evidence-based research on food and nutrition security and provide support to country-led strategies for strengthening food policy capacities.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. It is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

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