AGRICULTURE: ISSUES

Food security

People are considered “food secure” when they have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Work on food security at the WTO takes place in the Agriculture Committee. The WTO also contributes expertise to an Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), as recommended by the United Nations High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, to which the WTO is a member.

Since 2013, WTO members have agreed to negotiate and find a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding programmes for food security purposes. Under these programmes, developing countries purchase and stockpile food, and distribute it to people in need. However, some of these programmes involve support to farmers and are therefore considered to distort trade.

See also:

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures
i.e. food safety and animal-plant health

Standards and Trade Development Facility
Helping developing countries meet food and health standards

The latest situation: market information

The WTO is working with eight other international organizations on an Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS). The system is used to detect abnormal market conditions that would affect food security and to devise well-informed, coordinated strategies to deal with them.

The information system is the result of a recommendation by a group of organizations including the WTO in their report on “Price Volatility in Food and Agricultural Markets: Policy Responses” submitted in June 2011 to the G-20 meetings of major economies. The WTO is contributing expertise principally by sharing trade policy information that members have notified to the WTO.

The AMIS market monitoring reports can be found here.

See also the FAO on the world food situation.

 

Public stockholding for food security purposes

Public stockholding programmes are used by some governments to purchase, stockpile and distribute food to people in need. While food security is a legitimate policy objective, some stockholding programmes are considered to distort trade when they involve purchases from farmers at prices fixed by the governments, known as “supported” or “administered” prices.

At the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, ministers agreed that, on an interim basis, public stockholding programmes in developing countries would not be challenged legally even if a country’s agreed limits for trade-distorting domestic support were breached. They also agreed to negotiate a permanent solution to this issue.

A decision on public stockholding taken at the 2015 Nairobi Ministerial Conference reaffirmed this commitment and encouraged WTO members to make all concerted efforts to agree on a permanent solution.

> Find out more

 

High Level Task Force

The WTO joined a High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis in April 2008 in the wake of spiralling food prices. The task force, chaired by the UN Secretary General, comprises heads or other representatives of 22 international organizations, including the WTO and relevant parts of the UN Secretariat.

In July 2008, the task force developed its first action framework outlining its strategy and guiding principles, and adopting a comprehensive approach to food security —covering availability of food, access, stability and utilization.

In September 2010, the framework was updated to cover a wider range of issues and more detailed treatment of all aspects of food and nutrition security. The WTO Secretariat and other agencies participating in the task force have contributed to developing the framework.