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How can trade help countries achieve food security?


Strengthening the existing regulatory framework for agricultural trade is essential to ensuring the availability of safe and nutritious foods now and in the future. Multilateral trade rules provide a framework for predictability, transparency and cooperation. They can limit distortions, minimize unnecessary barriers to trade and facilitate trade itself. Complying with international standards is also important for ensuring food safety, quality and consumer awareness.

Speaking at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), an international conference on agri-food policy issues held in Berlin, Germany 16-18 January 2020, FAO Director General Qu Dongyu said that with the global population likely to rise to 10 billion by 2050, we need to increase the amount of food we produce by harnessing innovation, making efficient use of natural resources and by taking advantage of what is different in each country. On the issue of how to produce more food locally in an environmentally friendly way; “we need more young people, more young, qualified, professional farmers. That's a challenge for government, for FAO and for multinational companies”, he said.

Introducing his hand-in-hand initiative, Qu Dongyu said this new business model, bringing countries with the highest poverty and hunger rates together with developed countries, would reduce barriers between countries, underlining also the need to work under the World Trade Organization and through the standards of the Codex Alimentarius. “Trade provides wonderful purchasing power” and can be used to reduce the gap between countries with food shortages and those that are over-producing.

GFFA 2020 Berlin

Round table discussion on trade and SDG2 at GFFA 2020, Berlin.

Oumer Hussien Oba, Minister of Agriculture, Ethiopia said there must be rules “and the rules must not treat everyone equally, but in an equitable way” because the starting point for every country is not the same. “What works for Africa does not exactly work for the EU and we need to take some affirmative action for Africa”.

Beauty Manake, Minister for Agriculture, Botswana said in her country “the most important thing is for us to actually feed ourselves more than anything. How do we produce enough food that will feed Botswana and possibly actually export excess?”

The Minister for Agriculture from the Maldives, Zaha Waheed, speaking about challenges in competing in international markets, said: “We are taxed at 28 percent while we have some of the cleanest and greenest fishery that exists in that we are doing skipjack fishing by pole and line”.

Chris Forbes, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said a climate where countries can invest, innovate and boost productivity around the world is critically important if we are to take advantage of the benefits of a predictable set of global rules. He said it was important “for those of us that are exporting and those importing to understand the rules of the game and that they are clear and predictable”.

Alan Wolff, WTO Deputy Director General said systems needed to be agile to ensure the availability of supplies. “At a fundamental level, before we get to organic growth and the finer distinctions of food, you need food itself. And world trade gives us that possibility at a fundamental level. It creates a better allocation of resources”, he said.

Qu told participants at the event, "we all have a shared destiny in the global village". He said it would not be possible to avoid any part of the world that was suffering from food shortages and that this was a challenge we have to face.


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GFFA discusses importance of shaping international trade for the benefit of all

FAO Hand-in-hand initiative

GFFA website

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