The Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations, which started in 1986 and concluded in 1994, advanced trade liberalization and led to the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) stands out as a hallmark, since it brought agriculture—until then mostly not covered by international trade disciplines—into a rules-based framework.
When the global prices of staple commodities surge, some governments react immediately by imposing trade-restricting measures in order to insulate domestic prices from rising world prices. During the global food price crisis of 2007–2008, such behavior was observed among many governments, particularly in net food-exporting countries, in response to the impending food security shock. As many as 16 countries imposed some form of export restriction, such as a ban or export tax, on commodities including rice, wheat, maize, other grains, and vegetable oils.
On June 6, the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, located about 70 km upstream of Kherson, a port city on the Dnipro River, collapsed, sending an uncontrollable flow of water from its reservoir downstream. Futures markets reacting to the news sent wheat futures up almost 3 percent before falling back later that day.
The FAO Food Price Index declined by 2.6 percent in May. Compared to May 2022 levels, the Index is 22.1 percent below its all-time high.
Agricultural markets—particularly trade in cereals such as wheat and maize—have seen significant volatility over the past year as impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war, combined with tight global stocks, drove prices to record (nominal) highs. The rice market, by contrast, has been generally tranquil (Figure 1). Large global supplies and the lack of any direct trade connection to the Ukraine conflict left rice relatively immune to the price spikes seen with other commodities. But recently there have been signs of trouble.