Photo Credit: Flickr (Adam Cohn)

By: Rachel Kohn

By Derek Headey
Cross-posted from IFPRI.org A modified version of this story originally appeared on Dani Rodrik’s weblog on March 28, 2014.

Concerns have been growing over how the ongoing political turmoil in the Ukraine, the world's third largest maize exporter, could impact global grain prices and reserves in the coming year. While Ukraine has delivered the majority of its current export obligations, continuing conflict could pose problems for next season's planting and harvest, and thus future export shipments.

Global trade policies have the potential to significantly impact food security, for better or for worse. With the ninth WTO Ministerial Conference upcoming in Bali in December, some developing country leaders are pressing negotiators to keep this connection in mind and fast-track talks on proposed changes that would give developing countries greater flexibility in following the new WTO agricultural trade rules.

USDA has released its latest quarterly grain stocks update and is seeing important reductions in grain stock-to-use ratios. These reductions are expected to continue impacting prices and trade; however, as they were anticipated by most major traders, they should not increase price volatility in the coming weeks.

Global maize and soybean prices have skyrocketed in recent weeks and experts fear that price increases will be unabated as dry weather in the US Midwest continues for at least another week.

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.

A Commentary by Maximo Torero

Thailand’s rice exporters are warning that the country’s 2012 rice exports could drop by as much as 30-40 percent as the result of a proposed government policy that would guarantee fixed prices for both plain white rice and jasmine rice. The Pheu Thai Party, which was elected into power in July, has promised farmers fixed prices of 15,000 baht ($US 500) per ton for plain white rice and 20,000 baht (US$ 667) per ton for jasmine rice.

G20 leaders at their summit meeting in November 2010 requested FAO, IFAD, IMF, OECD, UNCTAD, WFP, the World Bank, and the WTO to work with key stakeholders “to develop options for G20 consideration on how to better mitigate and manage the risks associated with the price volatility of food and other agriculture commodities, without distorting market behaviour, ultimately to protect the most vulnerable.”

With an estimated 44 million people falling into poverty since June 2010, rising food prices and increasing agricultural price volatility is at the forefront of global attention. Commodity exchanges have long been touted as a way to mitigate the effects of price volatility and increase economic efficiency in a liberalized market environment. As with other aspects of global agricultural markets, however, exchange markets are facing increasing global interdependence as traders draw on information generated both domestically and internationally.

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