In early October, the WTO held its Public Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. The Public Forum is an annual event providing a platform for public debate about a wide range of global topics and issues being discussed by the WTO.

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.

The WTO Doha Development Round trade negotiations have been at an impasse since their launch in 2001, and have gotten particularly bogged down over the difficult technical and political aspects of agricultural trade reform. Further complicating the talks is the fact that the global economic, trade, and geopolitical context has changed significantly since the Doha Round was launched.

Ukraine has announced that it will be enforcing an export ban on wheat beginning on November 15. The move comes after poor weather impacted Ukraine’s wheat harvests and follows in the wake of the US drought, which decimated that country’s wheat crop and led to sharp increases in international prices. Ukraine’s exports are expected to reach 5.3 million tons in November, a level which the Ukrainian government says will exhaust the country’s exportable surpluses.

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.

While progress has stalled in the House of Representatives in recent weeks, the pending new five-year US Farm Bill will have important implications for agriculture.

During the Second APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security in Kazan, Russia, APEC Ministers unanimously endorsed a comprehensive plan to address food security and development issues. The Kazan Declaration focuses on increasing agricultural productivity, facilitating trade and developing markets, enhancing food safety and quality, and improving vulnerable populations' access to safe food sources, and ensuring sustainable development.

Source: Deborah Brautigam

The seventh joint report of the UNCTAD-OECD on G20 countries' investment policies was released on May 29. This report is released every seven months and looks at recent policy measures taken by G20 countries to determine possible impacts they may have on the global investment and economic situation. The report was called for during the 2011 Cannes Summit as part of the G20 leaders' commitment to reduce protectionist policies.

For many poor rural farmers, getting their products to market is one of the most daunting obstacles they face. Markets in developing countries often have weak integration, characterized by a lack of communication and information-sharing; thus, while markets in one region may offer higher prices for a commodity, farmers in other regions have no way of learning about, and taking advantage of, these price differences.

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.

Share