On December 20, 2011, the Foundation for World Agriculture and Rurality (FARM)1
, PLURIAGRI and the French Institute for Public Management and Economic Development (IGPDE)2
organized a conference entitled “G20 agriculture: What’s next?” to take stock of what has been achieved in the agricultural sector in the context of the French presidency of the G20 in 2011, and to discuss the directions proposed by Mexico, which assumes the G20 presidency in 2012.
Gathering a panel of about ten speakers from the agricultural sector in developed and emerging nations, as well as political leaders from governments and regional and international organizations, the conference explored several key issues of regulation and world agricultural governance.
Several consensus points emerged among the many topics covered.
1. Major strides have been made under the G20 French presidency.
Following the example of Xavier Beulin, President of the French Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA), PLURIAGRI or Ibrahim Coulibaly, Honorary Chairman of the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations of Western Africa (ROPPA), all speakers commended “France’s courageous decision” to put the issue of food and agriculture on the G20 agenda.
While most member states shared differing––even opposing––views regarding agricultural market regulation and the measures to be implemented to improve global food security, the negotiations held in 2011 were successful––all the more so in a context of economic and financial turmoil––in achieving significant progress, as illustrated by the Action Plan adopted by the Agriculture Ministers on June 22 and 233
. Consequently, an Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) was set up to increase transparency on production, consumption and stocks, and a pilot project for emergency humanitarian reserves will be launched in Western Africa in the upcoming months. Lastly, a “Rapid Reaction Forum” has been established in the framework of AMIS to improve international coordination of agricultural policies, and thus prevent and manage food crises.
The speakers also pointed out that the G20 under French presidency deserves the credit for shedding another light on the food issue and for getting out of the binary view spurred in Marrakech in 1994, that the world was divided between producing nations on one side and consuming nations on the other, with differing interests and structures.
2. It is urgent to strengthen and intensify the commitments made in June 2011, especially those regarding the highly sensitive issue of regulation stocks.
As the hyper-volatility of prices and increased financialization of markets are more than ever threatening global food security, almost all of those attending the conference––including Bernard Valluis, Deputy Chairman of the National Association of French Millers (ANMF)––emphasized the need to implement buffer stocks to stabilize market prices.
Building up regulation stocks, however, requires the availability of adequate storage capacities at the local, regional and global levels, and their replenishment when required. Launched in the 1980s by the advocates of full market liberalization, the reappraisal of buffer stocks has led––as stated by Pierre-Olivier Drège, in charge of strategy at Unigrains––to a worldwide erosion of storage capacities that has been hastened in Europe due to the dismantling of public policies under pressure from the WTO talks. As a result, in 10 years France has lost over 10 percent of its storage capacity, while its production rose.
3. The role of the G20 in global food and agricultural governance must be explored to improve the effectiveness and coordination of the various existing international organizations.
While all participants recognized the effective coordination undertaken by the G20, several agricultural leaders––in particular those from developing nations––emphasized the role of governments and the scope of UN organizations.
As it represents 85 percent of global trade, two thirds of the world’s population and over 90 percent of the Gross World Product, the G20 is indeed a “formidable” initiator. Nevertheless, it remains the combination of 19 states with the European Union, and this is the reason why, for some, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)––established in 1974 in the framework of the FAO––seems more legitimate to lay the groundwork for a global agricultural governance system. On this point, it should be pointed out that the role of the CFS, which was only a technical committee, has been expanded to become a committee of experts, yet is far from having the political role which, according to momagri, must be given to the G20 through a Council on Food Security set up at the heads of state level4
Lastly, all participants agreed on the need to continue questioning the ideology advocating market and trade full liberalization that has been prevailing since the 1980s, and to allow governments and regional organizations to implement genuine policies to support agriculture.
That, we believe, is the central precondition for the long-lasting improvement of global food security.
Concluding the conference, Jorge Rueda Sousa, Minister Counselor for Agriculture at the Mexican Mission to the European Union, reiterated his country’s commitment to pursue the work started by France. Mexico particularly wants to enforce and strengthen the measures of the Action Plan adopted in June 2011, and reach a consensus to increase global agricultural production in order to meet increasing demand.
To reach such objectives, Mexico outlined several strategies: Strengthening international cooperation in the field of research and development, supporting research in agribusiness by promoting private investment, backing the use of natural resources, as well as implementing management tools for climate, financial and health risks. In addition, Mexico wants to bring more focus the discussions on small producers.
With a summit planned for June 2012, agriculture will thus clearly be a key topic for the G20 Mexican presidency. Yet so far, the nonetheless crucial issue of regulation stocks has only been broadly raised. Mexico must play a historical role by turning this issue into one of the priorities of the G20 talks that are planned for the upcoming months.
4 Editors’ note: The issue of international agricultural governance is at the core of the work of momagri, which considers it must include all key elements linked to agriculture, as well as the international organizations managing them. Food security is thus granted priority, like trade, economic development or the environment, and to which the WTO, UNPD, UNEP, the World Bank or the IMF must be associated. This is one of momagri’s founding principles, as further outlined in our “governance principles”: http://www.momagri.org/UK/governance/Proposal-for-the-principles-of-governance-for-a-future-World-Organization-for-Agriculture-_88.html and http://www.momagri.org/UK/governance-intro.html