Global trade is a complex, politically charged issue that has important implications for the global food system.

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The latest FAO Food Price Index was released last week, citing slightly higher food prices from January. The February Index rose by 0.9 points from the previous month. While this is a very slight increase, the Index is 17.2 percent higher than its February 2016 levels. It has now reached the highest level seen since February 2015.

FAO estimates that around the world, about 795 million people still suffer from hunger and more than two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies or forms of over-nourishment. Simultaneously, historical and future achievements in food security are under threat due to climate change and increasing pressures on natural resources.

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Micronutrient deficiencies afflict more than two billion individuals worldwide. These deficiencies occur when the intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals are too low to sustain good health and development.

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It is estimated that deforestation, forest degradation, and peat land emissions account for about 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. A REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) agreement was reached at COP 16 in 2010; since then, REDD policies have been introduced with the goal of preserving forests and proposals have been put forward to compensate developing countries for avoided deforestation.

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The FAO’s monthly report on food price trends was released on February 13. The bulletin reports on recent food price developments over the past month at the global, regional, and country levels, with a focus on developing countries, and provides early warnings for high country-level food prices that may negatively affect food security.

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Global wheat supplies dropped by 4.2 million tons this month due to sharply reduced production in India and Kazakhstan, according to the latest USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) report. WASDE also raised its global wheat use estimates for 2016-2017 based on higher feed and residual use. This combination of falling global supplies and increasing global demand has led world ending stock estimates to be reduced by 4.7 million tons.

Research shows that the global growth of information and telecommunication technologies (ICTs) has resulted in significant development opportunities, especially in rural areas. ICTs can improve households’ agricultural production and profitability, increase job opportunities, and encourage the adoption of healthier practices and more effective risk management techniques.

Surging cereal export prices brought the FAO Food Price Index to a two-year high in January. The Index rose 2.1 percent above its December level, to 173.8 points. This is the highest level seen since February 2015 and as much as 24.5 points above its January 2016 level.

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The global population is expected to grow to more than 9 billion people by 2050. In such a scenario, ensuring the availability of and access to affordable and nutritious food will be a major challenge.