Sustainable agricultural growth and fair, stable global markets are key to maintaining global food security and reducing hunger and poverty, as well as to fulfilling the G20 commitment to worldwide economic growth and development. How to encourage growth and maintain stable markets, however, is a complex and widely debated issue. Reliable, objective research is needed to address the concerns of both the developed and the developing world and to ensure that domestic needs are not protected at the cost of global stability.

As food prices rose in 2010, the issue of food security was once again brought to the forefront of global attention. Wildfires in Russia, floods in Pakistan and Australia, and drought in China contributed to widespread concern about the cost and sustainability of the world’s food supply. With high and volatile food prices causing potential long-term problems for economic growth and poverty reduction, particularly in the developing world, the need for research-based policy responses is clear.

Emergency food reserves, or strategic reserves, have received considerable attention since the 2007-08 food crisis. Since that time, many countries have either established new strategic reserve programs or scaled up their existing programs by increasing stock levels. The rationale behind these policies is that, with increasing international food price volatility, governments must be prepared to protect their most vulnerable populations from food price shocks, declining purchasing power, and famine.

Price volatility is one of the most critical economic and food security challenges facing global policymakers today. Moreover, spikes in food prices can have significant impact on incomes, markets, and nutrition worldwide. In extreme cases, food price volatility can have serious political and social repercussions; in the 2007-08 food price crisis, 33 countries saw violent riots and social unrest as a result of volatile food prices, while in 2011, food price spikes have been at least partially blamed for political turnover in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as riots in several other countries.

“The G-20 is the premier forum for our international economic development that promotes open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability. By contributing to the strengthening of the international financial architecture and providing opportunities for dialogue on national policies, international co-operation, and international financial institutions, the G-20 helps to support growth and development across the globe.” (G20 Mandate)

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