A new vision for agriculture
momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.
A look at the news

“France does not have oil, but it has wheat”1

June 29, 2015

“Wheat, Geopolitical Challenges and Economic Diplomacy” was the bold topic of the conference hosted in Paris by the IRIS (Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques) and the AGPB (Association Générale des Producteurs de Blé, the French wheat association) on June 18, 2015. Sébastien Abis2––an IRIS researcher associate and board member of the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM)––along with specialists and operators in the French and international grain markets are reporting on the event. All addressed the geostrategic significance and the complexity of the challenges linked to this “golden oil”, a crucial, ancestral and specific windfall that is subjected to both endogenous and exogenous risks.

The global wheat consumption has tripled during the past 50 years, and currently concerns three billion people. Seventy percent of wheat production is used to feed mankind, with stocks mostly concentrated in China that are difficult to assess due to the lack of reliable data. Even more revealing, 85 percent of world wheat is produced by ten nations, whose strategic dominance thus becomes undeniable. Conversely, a third of grain imports is directed to North Africa and the Near East, with Egypt as the world top wheat importer. This explains why Sébastien Abis speaks of “grain hyper-reliance” to define that geographic zone.

As a result, wheat illustrates not only global tensions––as seen during the Cold War and more critically today when grain becomes a power issue for the Islamic State––but also represents a key strategic asset, and is at the heart of increasingly financialized markets. How else can we understand Russia’s use of the food weapon? Understand the crucial issue of mastering the grain sector in the Ukraine crisis? The strategic alliances between Australia and China for instance? Lastly, how can we understand the international implications of the United States through the Farm Bill?

In this area, the American economic growth in the 1990s was caught up by the rising power of the Black Sea countries and of emerging nations, such as China, in the international markets during the 2000s. In Europe, France ranks first in wheat exports, with 10 percent of its territory used for wheat crops. With a positive balance of €8.4 billion in 2014––the equivalent of 76 “Rafale” fighter jets––it is the second ranking agro-food post following wines and spirits. Consequently, France is at the heart of these geostrategic challenges.

More globally, we can no longer ignore the weight of agriculture and food security in the international agenda, and this conference is an excellent example. The 2007 and 2008 food crises have also made us aware of the significance of these two key issues for the 21st century. Yet, if wheat and agriculture as a whole represent crucial drivers of economic diplomacy, particularly in France, we risk selling off the food security of our countries due to the lack of an international policy for agriculture.

1 The expression was used by Sébastien Abis during the conference
2 Sébastien Abis recently published “Géopolitique du blé, un produit vital pour la sécurité mondiale".

Page Header
Paris, 16 June 2019