Agriculture on the G20 agenda – about time!

21 June, 2011 | GROW

This week the Agriculture Ministers of all G20 nations meet for the first time ever. While it’s probably true to say that Agriculture Ministers aren’t often known for hitting the headlines in a big way, food and farming aren’t normally given much attention in high-level global political circles.

Therefore, this move by the French presidency of the world’s most powerful group of leaders gives a strong signal as to the increasing importance of agriculture. This demonstrates a huge opportunity to make serious inroads to tackling hunger and food insecurity. 

Unfortunately, a leaked early draft of the G20 communiqué seen by Oxfam last week looks like progress towards this is disappointing. This meeting has an opportunity to take crucial steps to reducing the 1 billion people going hungry today. For instance, they could get rid of the biofuels subsidies that turn grain into fuel rather than food and contribute to rising food prices. Crucially, for those living with hunger, it seems ambition is lower than hoped. 

As Duncan Green, Head of Research at Oxfam GB, highlighted in his recent blog, G20 leaders have lots to do to fix the current global food crisis. This includes, providing transparent information on food stocks, regulating financial speculation on commodities, ending biofuels targets and subsidies, investing in small-scale food production and providing resources to poor countries who are adapting to climate change. G20 leaders must also work in other multilateral forums like the Committee on Food Security where all countries, including the most vulnerable, are represented. 

Oxfam is issuing a warning this week that global cereal stocks – which supply a significant amount of our staple foods - could fall as low as 17% of world consumption by the end of this year. History demonstrates that when stocks fall this low, prices can sky-rocket and have irreversible impacts on poor communities. However, evidence from countries like Indonesia and Madagascar show that this risk can be managed by using well designed food reserves that reduce food insecurity. G20 leaders need to seriously consider investing in a global grain reserve. A paper we’re publishing this week suggests that a reserve of just 105m tonnes would have been enough to help avoid the devastating impacts of the 2007-8 food price crisis. 

This is just one example of how a simple solution could help meet a very complex challenge. It’s not often that agriculture is placed so firmly on the agenda of some of the world’s most powerful leaders. It’s an opportunity that the billion going hungry today can’t afford to be lost. 

You can call on G20 leaders – meeting this week and again in November - to take action by signing the petition as part of the GROW campaign. 

Suggested tweets

  • @oxfam blog: G20 Agriculture Ministers must act this week to help end hunger #GROW
  • #G20 #agriculture ministers will meet tomorrow. They must act 2 tackle the causes of food price volatility http://oxf.am/4SH 
  • Sign the petition! Call for the #G20 to end the global food crisis http://oxf.am/g20act #GROW 
  • Oxfam warns global cereal stocks could fall as low as 17% of world consumption by the end of this year http://oxf.am/4SH 
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