Food prices spiked in March, according to the latest FAO Food Price Index, released this week. The Index rose 4.8 points from February and is at its highest level since May 2013. The increase is due largely to poor weather and continuing unrest in the Black Sea region. Cereal and sugar prices gained the most this month.

The March edition of the FAO Monthly News Report on Grains was released this week. The report covers ongoing global and regional trends in grain prices and policies. This month's report includes articles on the International Grain Council's prediction that the global grain harvest will fall next season, India's food storage limitations, Russia's slowing grain crop growth, and the threat of an export bottleneck due to the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine.

Fertile soil is one of the basic building blocks of agricultural productivity. In order for crops to grow properly, soils need to contain the proper nutrients; unfortunately in many areas of the world, soils have become depleted of their nutrients, leading to decreased productivity.

Concerns have been growing over how the ongoing political turmoil in the Ukraine, the world's third largest maize exporter, could impact global grain prices and reserves in the coming year. While Ukraine has delivered the majority of its current export obligations, continuing conflict could pose problems for next season's planting and harvest, and thus future export shipments.

With less than two years to go to meet the Millennium Development Goals, how has the world done on its goal of halving hunger? According to the IFPRI 2013 Global Food Policy Report, released this week, much work remains. While the number of chronically hungry people has declined from 1 billion to around 842 million over the last 30 years, this number is still unacceptably high. One in eight people around the world suffers from hunger on a daily basis.

Extreme poverty and gender inequality are two of the most daunting challenges faced by the developing world. To tackle these challenges, many policymakers are turning to public works programs. Such programs can help governments provide stable, balanced wages to households in need, while at the same time investing in important infrastructure, like roads and irrigation systems, that can promote economic development in the future. But these programs are not without controversy.

In the sharpest rise seen since mid-2012, the FAO Food Price Index increased by 5.2 points, or 2.6 percent, in February. The rebound was driven by rising prices across all sectors of the Index, with the exception of meat. Despite this rise, however, the February Index remained 2.1 percent lower than one year ago.

The February edition of the FAO Monthly News Report on Grains was released yesterday. The report covers ongoing global and regional trends in grain prices and policies. This month's report includes articles on the new US Farm Bill, the potential impact of the crisis in the Ukraine on grain harvests in the region, falling Indian wheat exports, and China's increasing imports of corn and soybeans.

This article was originally posted as part of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

The EU’s trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies were lower in the 2010-11 marketing year than in any previous year, according to new figures that the 28-member bloc has reported to the WTO.

This article was originally posted as part of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

With the Bali ministerial now behind them, the process to develop a Doha “work programme” by year’s end is beginning to gear up in Geneva, with WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urging members last week to use 2014 to get the struggling negotiations “back on track.”