In recent days, the price for soft wheat has increased, as has its volatility. This increase in volatility has likely stemmed from reports that cold weather in Europe may damage crops, a fear that may in fact have been overstated. Reports from Russia about a potential new levy on wheat exports starting in April 2012 may have also played a part in this week's increased volatility.

Asymmetry of information is a major obstacle to increasing global food security. Having access to reliable food price and market information is critical for policymakers, food policy experts, and researchers to be able to respond quickly to dynamic developments in the global food system.

The price of agricultural commodities is determined by many different variables, including production quantities, currency rates, weather events, political or social turmoil, and the price of inputs needed to produce those commodities. Throughout the world, fertilizers are a major agricultural input, and thus a major factor in the price of agricultural commodities.

With the price of basic food items on the rise, global policymakers are again faced with the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations. Women and young children tend to be most negatively impacted by sharp increases in the price of food. However, while extensive research has been conducted on the causes and consequences of the 2007-08 food price crisis, little of that research has focused specifically on the impact of the crisis on women, and whether the impact differs for women compared to men.

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has released a report for policymakers titled "Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change." According to the report, global food security is constrained by three factors: the quantity of food that can be produced in a given climate; the quantity of food needed by a growing global population; and the effect of food production on the climate. Operating within this "safe space" will ensure food security in the coming years.

On Friday November 4, G20 leaders issued a Cannes Summit Final Declaration, wrapping up the 2011 G20 Summit. Among the issues addressed at this year's summit was the challenge posed by food price volatility and its impact on global food security, as well as the need to create an international emergency humanitarian food reserve system.

FAO GIEWS released today the November 2011 Final Food Outlook, a comprehensive analysis of the global agricultural market situation. According to the report, the outlook for the agricultural commodities markets remains difficult to predict; despite improved supply prospects and weakening demand for several important commodities, volatile prices and the uncertain global economic situation continue to play a part in high food prices.

In a long-awaited move, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission on October 18 approved limits on trading in the commodities markets. Specifically, the new rules limit the number of commodity contracts that any investor can hold in agriculture, energy, or metals contracts.

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.

The HarvestChoice AgMarketFinder Tool is a collaborative development innovation from IFPRI, Esri, and SpatialDev.

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