18 September 2012, Paris/Rome - Better international coordination and increased information exchange are helping to ease tight markets, French President François Hollande and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva agreed during discussions in Paris yesterday.
"France shares FAO's and the UN's position that we are not in a food price crisis, but we need to remain vigilant," said Graziano da Silva.
During the meeting, Graziano da Silva recognized the role played by France in placing food security and food price volatility on the international agenda.
President Hollande has said that "the old order has gone but the new one has not yet emerged," including the need to create new governance arrangements to adequately address hunger and new challenges to world food security in the long-run.
"We thank France for its leadership in these issues," said Graziano da Silva. "The establishment by the G20 of the Agricultural Market Information System in 2011 is important to improve market information and reduce volatility," added Graziano da Silva.
AMIS was set up in 2011 to improve transparency and information flows on global markets and, through its Rapid Response Forum, to promote better coordination of policy responses to food price volatility.
France has been chair of AMIS since it was created. At the end of September, the United States assumes the chair for a 12-month period.
"France has done a very good job in chairing AMIS in its first year," said Graziano da Silva.
The Director-General voiced his support for convening a meeting of the G20 agricultural ministers at FAO headquarters in Rome on 16 October, an opportunity presented by the fact that some ministers have already confirmed their presence for the World Food Day Ceremony and the Committee of World Food Security Session that will take place that week.
The proposed meeting would allow a review of the progress made towards
better governance of food markets since the establishment of AMIS.
In their first official meeting, Hollande reaffirmed his commitment to the Organization and praised the work being done by Graziano da Silva.
One option discussed to address the impact of food price volatility was the creation of strategic food security stocks to provide emergency relief in a crisis, targeting the poor countries.
France confirmed its support to a code of conduct for emergency humanitarian food reserve management. Work on this code of conduct is being started and will include all stakeholders, said the Director-General.
They stressed that such stocks should not be designed for any intended market intervention to set a ceiling on prices, but rather, could serve together with other safety net mechanisms as cushions in the event of any threat to national food security.
The need to increase short, medium and long-term support to poor developing countries, such as those from the Sahel, was also a topic at the meeting in Paris.
"We will work together with other partners to increase assistance to the countries in the Sahel. Our focus will be to prevent further crises and to reinforce the resilience of vulnerable populations there, with a special emphasis on promoting agricultural investments and supporting the livelihoods of pastoralists," the FAO Director-General explained.
FAO's emergency programme in the Sahel currently benefits 3.8 million people in food and livestock production, domestic animal protection, related technical assistance and desert locust control activities.
Africa's Sahel region has been hard hit by a series of droughts, conflict and plant pests. Currently, 18.7 million people are facing food and nutrition insecurity in this region.
The increased support to the Sahel was discussed in the framework of a new cooperation agreement signed by France and FAO.
France and FAO renew framework agreement
During the Director-General's visit to Paris, France and FAO signed a four-year accord to strengthen cooperation.
The agreement strengthens the already solid cooperation that exists and focuses on emerging food security and agriculture issues: the need for greater sustainability in our food system, the need to increase resilience in vulnerable populations, the need to reinforce our global standard-setting work and bring this to the country level and the need to continue increasing the participation of all stakeholders - governments, international and regional organizations, the scientific community, the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations.
The Director-General and the Minister Delegate for Development of France, Pascal Canfin, signed the agreement in a ceremony also attended by the Minister of Agriculture of France, Stéphane Le Foll.
World Organisation for Animal Health
Earlier in the day, Graziano da Silva met with Bernard Vallat, Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which is headquartered in Paris. They agreed to work on a formal accord to address the overlaps in the mandates of the two agencies and facilitate and improve cooperation.
Priority issues mentioned during the meeting included the progressive control of transboundary animal diseases; joint strategies and working groups on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and rift valley fever (RVF); placement of regional animal health centres; joint work on food- and wildlife-borne diseases; aquatic diseases and aquaculture.
Graziano da Silva pointed out that FAO's work in this area should focus on the organization's core mandate to fight hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty.