With the world facing continued population growth and the specter of climate change, food prices and food security are issues of growing global importance. The 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 food price crises have had lasting impacts on the face of the global food security environment; since 2001, food price volatility has been at its highest level in 50 years, and the uncertainty caused by this volatility is particularly detrimental for the world’s poor. (For more information on the impact of price volatility, see Chapter 2 of IFPRI’s 2011 Global Food Policy Report.) When food prices change quickly, poverty generally increases for both poor consumers and poor producers. Coupled with the increasing cost of inputs such as fertilizer and fuel, the uncertainty that stems from price volatility in input and output markets can reduce farmers’ profit margins, discourage long-term planning, and dampen investment in sustainable agricultural productivity. In turn, lower agricultural productivity and resulting lower food stocks can lead to further price increases, decreased availability of food particularly for poor populations, detrimental nutritional outcomes, and roadblocks to economic development.

Global leaders have increasingly recognized the importance of addressing the challenges of food security. In particular, the G20 has recognized that widespread food insecurity poses a drastic threat to the group’s goals of worldwide economic growth and development. (See Food Security and the G20.) Thus, the upcoming G20 Summit, to be held in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18-19, has prioritized improving food security, decreasing food price volatility, and increasing agricultural productivity. As ministerial meetings leading up to the 2012 G20 continue, researchers and policymakers face a complex set of factors affecting global food security that must be addressed comprehensively. These factors include:

  1. Effective policies and technology investments to minimize food–fuel competition.
  2. Social protection, especially social safety nets, for the most vulnerable groups.
  3. Transparent, fair, and open global trade.
  4. A global emergency physical grain reserve.
  5. Policies and investments to promote agricultural growth, in particular smallholder productivity, in the face of climate change.
  6. Investments by national governments in climate change adaptation and mitigation using the full potential that agriculture offers.
  7. An international working group to regularly monitor the world food situation and engage in actions to prevent excessive price volatility.

The Road to the G20 timeline featured on the Food Security Portal homepage has tracked the research leading up to the 2011 G20 Summit. This feature has now been redesigned to follow progress made on recommendations from the 2011 Summit and highlight research and new topics leading up to the 2012 G20 Summit in Mexico. This redesigned feature encompasses IFPRI research, follow-up progress from 2011 G20 action items, and recommendations for further action by the 2012 G20.

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