The ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa has shown that the challenge of food insecurity is alive and well. The 2011 G20 meetings have paid particular attention to the issues of high food prices, food price volatility, and food insecurity. G20 leaders have involved leading international institutions, such as the FAO, IFAD, WFP, and IFPRI, and have established several action plans to address these important issues.

While increasing access to well-functioning markets for high-value agricultural products is one key component of agricultural and economic development, an equally important component is ensuring that smallholder producers, particularly women, have the capacity to take advantage of this increased access.

In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Christopher Barrett and Marc Bellemare write a stimulating note on the recent price movements in agricultural commodity markets. They appear to have three clear messages for policymakers:

The USDA Economic Research Service has released the latest global outlooks for wheat, rice, feed crops, and oil crops.

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With the global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050, and incomes in developing countries to continue rising as well, increased global demand for food in the coming decades will place unprecedented pressure on sustainable food production. Climate change poses a further challenge, as changes in temperature and precipitation threaten agricultural productivity and the world’s capacity to feed a growing population.

GIEWS has released the latest Global Food Price Monitor, citing a slight rise in the FAO Food Price Index for June. The increase is based in large part on strong increases in global sugar prices, which are up 14 percent from May. At 234 points, June's Food Price Index remains 4 percent lower than the all-time high hit in February 2011.

IFPRI launched the Excessive Food Price Variability Early Warning System today. This new tool measures excessive food price variability and is the only mechanism currently available to identify time spans of increased price variability. It is updated daily and forewarns policymakers and humanitarian agencies of periods of time with excessive food price variability.

FEWS NET has released its monthly price watch for June 2011, citing stable and declining prices for wheat and maize in May.

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The US Senate on Thursday voted to eliminate billions of dollars in federal ethanol subisidies, making it unlikely that the current 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy for refiners and 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol will be extended beyond the end of the year.

With food security remaining a critical issue for both developed and developing countries, the Meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers met on June 22-23 to discuss food price volatility and improved sustainable agricultural policies. The Action Plan developed at the meeting highlights greater sustainable productivity, better market information, more open trade, comprehensive rural development and agricultural policies, and sustained investment in agricultural development.

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