The issue of large-scale public food stockholding programs played a starring role in this month's 9th WTO Ministerial in Bali (for more analysis, read posts by Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla and David Laborde and Luca Salvatici). The resulting ministerial declaration, released on December 7, establishes an interim mechanism that Members can use to navigate the use and management of public food stocks in lieu of a more permanent solution. The declaration calls for a permanent solution to be concluded no later than the 11th Ministerial Conference.
The interim mechanism makes it possible for developing country Members to establish public stockholding programs for the purpose of food security in times of food crisis, even if such programs will push them over their Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS) limits (view more information on these, and other, limits on domestic agricultural support). The mechanism requires developing Members to notify the WTO if they are close to exceeding their AMS limits, as well as to provide statistical information on an annual basis about its stockholding program. The measure also provides safeguards to ensure that any domestic stockholding program will not distort trade or negatively impact the food security of any other Member.