Tackling financing challenges

Members shared their insights from the thematic workshop on financing in February and the expert session on 6 June, both focusing on the financing challenges for agricultural and food imports faced by governments of LDCs and NFIDCs and exploring potential solutions. This subject is an important component of the agreed Work Programme.

Referring to the 6 June session, which featured presentations by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Rabobank and the WTO Secretariat, Mr Vernooij underlined how the lack of import finance is such a critical issue, especially during a food crisis. This has greatly impeded the availability and accessibility of food imports for vulnerable countries. He asked members to deliberate on what can be done by various stakeholders, including importing and exporting governments, international financial institutions, the private sector and the WTO to alleviate the situation.

Many members reaffirmed the significance of addressing import finance challenges for LDCs and NFIDCs. While recognizing that the WTO is not a financial institution, some suggested that the WTO and the Committee on Agriculture can play a vital role as a platform for sharing information between public and private sectors, raising awareness about the food security implications of the lack of financial resources for food-importing countries and ongoing initiatives by other international and regional financial institutions.

Strengthening resilience

Members continued their discussions on how to enhance agricultural production and productivity and to build resilience in LDCs and NFIDCs, building upon the initial exchanges during the thematic workshop on 12 April.

Some members emphasized the role of technology and the importance of ensuring access to technologies for farmers. They highlighted the need for capacity building and technical assistance to achieve this goal.

Ensuring sufficient flexibilities for LDCs and NFIDCs to support the development of their agriculture sector was reiterated by some members. This includes short-term flexibilities to support agricultural producers in emergency situations as well as long-term investments in infrastructure, research and development, services, marketing and promotion.

The issue of access to agricultural inputs and pesticides during price hikes was raised by some members, while others emphasized the importance of cultivating high-yield seeds to improve productivity.

There was a strong emphasis on the need to enhance international cooperation. Some suggested improving transparency regarding new policies that could impact food prices and the availability of food and fertilizer.

Questionnaire, other business

Members examined a summary (G/AG/W/233) of members' responses to the questionnaire on their needs (G/AG/GEN/214) finalized last December. The objective was to identify common areas of interest and formulate recommendations based on the findings.

Mr Vernooij raised the question of whether members would be willing to collectively agree on a common framework or guidance regarding international food aid at the customs point of the recipient country. This would involve exempting it from the imposition of customs duties and other taxes by the recipient country at the border. One member clarified that they only exempted custom duties and value-added tax for food aid imports and not necessarily other levies applicable to imports. Another  member stressed the need for a fuller examination of the matter by gathering additional information on recipient members' practices.

Mr Vernooij expressed his intention to continue consulting with members to reach a consensus on the language that could be acceptable to all.

The WTO Secretariat presented the newly launched grain dashboards, which provide real-time data on seaborne trade in wheat and other grains and oil seeds. They were developed in response to members' requests for regular updates on trade and market developments, as outlined in the Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity adopted at the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference last June. Information about the dashboards is available here.

The working group serves as a dedicated platform under the Committee on Agriculture to address the food security concerns of LDCs and NFIDCs as part of a work programme launched as a follow-up to the mandate given by the 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022. For more information about the working group, visit the dedicated webpage here.

Next steps

Mr Vernooij said that the next working group meeting, scheduled for 19 July, will serve as an opportunity to assess the progress made thus far and lay the groundwork for further work after the summer break. A report, prepared in his role as Coordinator, will be released prior to the July working group meeting.




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