G20 Ministers agree international farm data system
G20 AGRICULTURAL Ministers have agreed to set up a new international agricultural data system to improve transparency in the markets.
Ministers from the richest nations agreed an action plan to tackle high food prices and volatility at the end of their two-day summit in Paris.
One of the central elements is a shared central database of food production and price information known as the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in Paris that ‘if fully supported and utilised’ the new information system ‘will mitigate volatility’ in commodity markets by improving production and price information.
Thje AMIS will be administered by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The action plan said it had been launched in order to ‘encourage major players on the agri-food markets to share data, to enhance existing information systems, to promote greater shared understanding of food price developments, and further policy dialogue and co-operation’.
It will initially focus on the main market players which account for the bulk of world food production, consumption and trade. In the ‘early stage’ it will involve only the G20 countries but other major grain and oilseeds producing, exporting and importing countries will be invited to participate, as will representatives from major commodity exchange markets and the private sector.
The G20 Ministers also agreed to set up an International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI) in order to coordinate research efforts on this ‘major crop for food security’.
“We recognize the importance of a significant increase in agricultural production
and productivity, considering the diversity of conditions world-wide and the need for a sustainable use of natural resources, in order to respond to the challenge of a growing demand,” the action plan said.
The Ministers also stressed their opposition to the imposition of food export restrictions. “We recognise that the first responsibility of each member state is to ensure the food security of its own population. We also recognize that food export barriers restricting humanitarian aid penalise the most needy,” the document said. . This had been another priority laid out by France at the meeting, following the decision by Russia to halt wheat exports last year, in response to weather damage to crops.
But France appeared to have made little headway in its efforts to impose new regulations on financial speculators. The action plan contains aspirations for ‘enhanced transparency in both cash and derivatives markets’ and ‘better collaboration’ to ‘improve regulation and supervision of markets’ but little in the way of firm new measures.
The action plan also falls short of calling for any new curbs on biofuels, despite the publication of a report by the World Bank and the FAO before the summit calling for the removal of subsidies on production or consumption.
It said further analysis was needed to on the relationship between biofuels production and food availability and price and the sustainability of agriculture production, while ‘recognizing the role biofuels can play in reduction of greenhouse gases, energy security and rural development’.
Mr Vilsack said the consensus reached by the G20 ministers ‘marks an historic union of resolve in combating the pressing challenges of hunger and food price volatility confronting our world with greater regularity’.
The G20 Action Plan contains five core objectives
- Improve agricultural production and productivity both in the short and long term in order to respond to a growing demand for agricultural commodities.
- Increase market information and transparency in order to better anchor expectations from governments and economic operators.
- Strengthen international policy coordination in order to enhance confidence in international markets and to prevent and respond to food market crises more efficiently.
- Improve and develop risk management tools for governments, firms and farmers in order to build capacity to manage and mitigate the risks associated with food price volatility, in particular in the poorest countries.
- Improve the functioning of agricultural commodities’ derivatives markets, this objective is being pursued through the work of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governor