14-16 OCTOBER 2001

The Impact of Globalization and Trade Liberalization on Food Security

by Hartwig de Haen

In his speech on the impact of globalization and trade liberalization on food security, Mr de Haen stressed the importance of leveling the playing field within the agriculture sector of developing countries.

"Agriculture is at the center of the developing countries' economies and accounts for a large share of GDP. It represents a major source of foreign exchange earnings, employs a large proportion of the labour force, and supplies the bulk of basic food required by the population. Agriculture provides income for large rural populations," he said.

"The agricultural sector and related rural sectors provide the source of livelihood for 60-70 percent of these countries' poor. Any impact of globalization and trade liberalization on the agricultural sector will have far reaching implications for the livelihood of their populations," he said.

There are many opportunities and challenges for agriculture and food security. The opportunities include reduced barriers to trade and larger markets on a global scale and across national frontiers. This would allow for a division of labour and specialization in production based on comparative advantage, which would assure that the aggregate benefit for the world economy would be maximized.

However, the challenge is how to enable countries with an undeveloped and non-modernized agricultural sector to compete in a competitive environment and sustain viable agricultural production at the national level.

"There is now growing recognition that the process (of trade liberalization) needs to be better managed from a perspective of global governance," he added.

The agricultural sector within developing countries is essential to world agricultural trade. World trade in agriculture (excluding fisheries and forestry products) totals $300 billion annually for developing countries (average 1996-99). However, between the 1980s and 1990s, the share of developing countries in world agricultural exports declined, while at the same time their share in world agricultural imports increased.

The world's least developed countries play a minimal and declining role; the agricultural trade balance is widening, reflecting a growing food import dependence.

"Trade liberalization should not overwhelm the ability of people and countries to cope with the pace and patterns of change, diminish economic and social diversity, or detract from the main focus of development, which are people, not markets," said Mr de Haen.

He concluded, saying that we need a global society, rather than a global economy, something that can be made possible if we move the system forward properly. "Multilateral trade rules should be more supportive of agricultural development and food security. Investment is needed to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of developing countries' agriculture."

Related links:

Full speech

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Click below to read presentations:

The State of Food Insecurity 2001, by Hartwig de Haen

The cost of hunger, by Jean-Louis Arcand

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Why are so many people hungry in a world that produces enough for all?, by Alan Randell

The potential of new technology: how to feed a growing world population, by Jim Dargie

Does it make sense to talk about agriculture today?, by Louise Fresco

World Food Day, by Margareta Winberg

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