Photo Credit: Sebastian Ilari

Trade was the major theme in January's Monthly News Report on Grains, released earlier this week. Changes in several countries' export and import policies and volumes were reported.

Photo credit: IFPRI/David Popham

This post was originally posted on the IFPRI.org blog. By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo Credit: Flickr: Frank Doyle

Markets play a crucial role in global agricultural development and food security, and well-functioning markets require effective, transparent regulations to ensure agricultural safety, quality, and economic efficiency. The World Bank’s 2016 Enabling the Business of Agriculture report examines the current state of agricultural and agribusiness regulations across the globe and provides some important lessons.

Photo Credit: Flickr: Josh Kellogg

International cereal prices remain significantly below last year’s levels due to abundant global supplies and strong export competition, says the latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin from FAO. The benchmark US wheat price was $214 per tonne in January, while the benchmark US maize price averaged $161 per tonne in January. Rice prices were slightly more varied depending on their origin; prices rose slightly for Thai 100%B white rice but fell for rice from Vietnam, India, and the US.

The USDA’s latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate was released this week, citing larger-than-predicted US surpluses for corn and wheat. Increased competition from Canada and South America have slowed US exports of those commodities by 25 million bushels, the lowest since 1971-1972. These 25 million bushels have also pushed US wheat ending stocks to the largest volume since 2009-2010. For corn, US ending stocks increased by 35 million bushels this month.

Photo Credit: Flickr: WTO

Today’s global food and agriculture landscape is, in many ways, unrecognizable from what it was even at the start of the 21st century. From the widespread use of staple food crops for biofuel production to increased market volatility to growing threats from climate change, food security worldwide faces many new challenges. Add to that a burgeoning global population and complicated (and sometimes distortionary) national and international trade policies, and it becomes clear that policymakers need new, more coordinated options to ensure a food-secure future.

Photo credit: Flickr: McKay Savage

The FAO Food Price Index fell nearly 3 points in January, signaling a continued decrease in all of the commodities tracked by the Index and a decline of nearly 29 points from January 2015. This continued fall in prices is in part driven by the strong global supply highlighted in this month’s AMIS Market Monitor, along with an appreciating US dollar and lower global oil prices.

The surge in digital technologies available over the past few decades has transformed virtually every sector of the global economy, and agriculture is no exception. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones and SMS messaging are changing the way farmers track weather patterns, access market information, interact with traders and government agencies, and get paid for their crops.

Climate change has been front and center of the global agenda recently, driven by the historic COP21 meeting in Paris in December and concerns about the ongoing El Niño cycle.

By: Joseph Glauber, IFPRI
A strong El Niño continued through December, as indicated by above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The strength and duration of the current El Niño event has raised concerns about global crop prospects and food prices.