WTO members review farm policies, discuss food security

Published : 03 Oct 2023 07:36 PM

At a meeting of the Committee on Agriculture on 27-28 September, WTO members reviewed each other's farm policies to ensure compliance with WTO disciplines. 

Food security was the main focus of discussions but members also addressed other topics, such as the interconnection between agri-food trade, technology transfer and protection of the environment. 

Participants exchanged views on ways to improve transparency on members’ agricultural measures and to enhance the overall functioning of the committee. The new chair of the committee, Kjetil Tysdal from Norway, facilitated the discussion. The committee continued to discuss how to implement the MC12 declaration on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the MC12 declaration on the food security. Members received updated analyses on food markets and global food security from the International Grains Council (IGC, G/AG/GEN/227) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, G/AG/GEN/228).

In its forecast for the production and potential market for grains, such as wheat, maize, soybean and rice, in 2023-24, the IGC highlighted the limited supply of wheat and the heightened prices for rice, drawing attention to recent trade-restrictive measures that may impact the market.

The FAO reported that according to the latest data 783 million people face hunger. The FAO rice price index increased by 9.8 per cent month-on-month in August, reaching a 15-year high, it said. 

Meanwhile, the global food import bill is projected to reach USD 1.98 trillion in 2023. The FAO highlighted key factors contributing to the food crisis, including geopolitical conflicts, the economic downturn, extreme climate events and growing inequality.

Members welcomed the analysis of the food market, suggesting ways to keep markets open, enhance transparency and provide emergency assistance. Some called for restraint on the use of export restrictions in times of crisis. Others pointed out the work undertaken by the working group on food security for least developed countries (LDCs) and net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs), emphasizing the necessity for more collaboration with international organizations to address the issue of food insecurity.

Tysdal, coordinator of the working group, provided an update on recent progress. Mindful of the deadline of end-November for issuing recommendations , one developing member suggested that the coordinator revise the latest report to take account of new submissions. Mr Tysdal said he intended to circulate an updated report in October.

India also briefed members on its trade-related measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to address food insecurity.