Friday, 17 June 2011

G20 must go beyond market tango to tackle global hunger

CIDSE – Measures to reduce price volatility in agricultural markets is one of the issues G20 Agricultural Ministers will discuss when they meet on 22-23 June next week in Paris. As food price volatility persists, with prices now fluctuating around a level twice as high as the average level in the period of 1990-2006, the issue can no longer be ignored according, to The international alliance of Catholic development agencies CIDSE. This increasingly frequent volatility is a result of a complex web of factors with dire consequences for the world’s poorest consumers who spend 50 – 70% of their income on food. CIDSE welcomes the fact that curbing of price volatility is high on the G20 agenda, while warning that poverty in general, and access to food in particular, are structural issues that must be addressed in order to reduce the number of hungry people in the world.

In an open letter to G20 Ministers CIDSE says that in order to achieve global food security the G20 is right to aim at preventing excessive speculation and regulating commodity markets as well as addressing the issue of food reserves. However, the alliance argues that regulating markets is but one piece of the puzzle and that the G20 should also support measures to strengthen local small holder production whilst supporting the harmonisation of the various global food security initiatives towards a multilateral food governance within the UN. “Food security cannot be addressed through markets alone; it is not because of a lack of production that nearly 1bn people go hungry. Sufficient food is produced globally, but tremendous quantities go to waste after production, during processing, transport or on supermarket shelves,” said CIDSE’s food expert Gisele Henriques, who will be attending the G20 meeting in Paris.

As agriculture is the mainstay of 75% of the developing world’s poor, CIDSE believes food policies should strengthen local production by small holder farmers, who account for 75% of the hungry in the world. It is extremely worrying that aid to the agricultural sector has decreased from 18% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 1979 to less than 4% currently. This trend must be reversed in favour of agricultural policies which support modes of production that develop and promote food and livelihood systems with greater environmental, economic and social resilience in face of climate change and future economic and food price crises.

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