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.
agriculture : blé
  The G20 and food security1

Pierre Pagesse,
President of momagri

On 24th June in Rome, Hafez Ghanem, chief economist at the FAO, just back from a meeting with G20 agriculture ministers held the previous day in Paris, was pleased to see world agriculture and food security back at the heart of the debate among world leaders as one of their priorities. In five points he summarized the key results obtained under the French Presidency :

    - the necessity to increase production and productivity;
    - an increase in market information and transparency;
    - the strengthening of international policy coordination;
    - a reduction of the impact of price volatility on the most vulnerable (stocks, safety nets, risk management tools);
    - an improvement in financial regulations.
For him, there is no doubt that significant progress has been achieved, almost unexpected in terms of power relations. For others, however, there is still a long way to go in terms of the challenges to be overcome.

Is the glass half empty or half full?

It is certainly not empty! Hafez Ghanem is right: putting food security as a top priority at the G20 is the keystone to the edifice that must now be built. Everything else stems from this, or almost.

Recognizing the vital role of innovation as a means to sustainably increase productivity and, ultimately, production, is a step forward, and likewise admitting the need to strengthen the regulation of agricultural markets to combat the scourge of volatility in agricultural prices. Indeed, prices that are too high weaken the consumption levels of the world’s poorest and prices that are too low discourage the vast majority of producers, which in both cases, endangers food security for all.

Of course, I would have liked the G20 to go further and engage in genuine global governance, to ensure that the world’s farmers received sufficiently remunerative and stable prices: this clarity is essential for them to meet production needs and invest in view of increasing their productivity! I would have liked them to take lessons from the success of the policy conducted in Senegal by President Wade, which by guaranteeing its farmers a remunerative price for rice has enabled the country, which imported 50% of its needs, to become self-sufficient in five years. I would have liked them to go further than establishing the Agricultural Markets Information System (AMIS), although it clearly represents a step forward.

Knowing where stocks are and in what quantity is, of course, an absolute necessity for political leaders to make smart decisions. Would the Russian embargo in the summer of 2010 have had the same consequences with AMIS? Probably not quite. But let us be clear: knowing “where and how” is not enough! It is also necessary that stocks be at sufficient levels of main food production, primarily, grain. This is currently not the case.

As a result, even small differences between production and use, leads to an instability that is intrinsic to agricultural markets. Speculation, which is not the primary cause of volatility, comes to reinforce this each time the physical merchant stock is offset. Safety nets and risk management tools remain powerless unless they are accompanied by an international governance of security stocks...

The G20 have confirmed their objective of reducing the impact of volatility on vulnerable countries. Some believe that volatility only affects the least developed countries: this is a simplistic view that does not reflect reality. All the world’s farmers are the victims of price volatility, even in developed countries. Momagri, like other think tanks, has demonstrated that closing agricultural chapter, currently on the table at the WTO, would lead to a global disaster. Only the mega-farms in emerging countries will fare well in this game.

The G20 members, who represent over 80% of world agricultural production and the large majority of inter-regional trade have, in fact, the ability to combat this volatility because they control most of the stocks. Their ambition for reinforcing international policy coordination, demonstrated in Paris, sets the framework. The implementation of the “Rapid Reaction Forum” gives them the means. All they need to do now is apply them. Is it not their duty?

Do not they have a duty to go beyond emergency intervention, i.e. to establish a truly international governance of security stocks, capable of ensuring a minimum price per large geographical zone, based on both an observation of real production costs and currency exchange rates in purchasing power?

1 Article published in the Paysans newspaper, http://www.revue-paysans.fr/
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Paris, 17 June 2019