Agriculture ministers representing both the world’s advanced and emerging economies have agreed on an action plan to combat out-of-control global food prices, which have been growing steadily more volatile since 2008.
Here’s what the plan includes:
a system to track food stock holdings by governments, big agribusiness, and other large commodities holders, to improve transparency and reduce misinformed speculation
emergency humanitarian food reserves to be handled by the (highly competent) World Food Program
a pledge to remove food export restrictions and most taxes on food purchased for aid purposes
risk management programs to help countries with very undeveloped economies engage with global food markets
These are all great ideas. The first one will hopefully limit speculative bubbles, the second one will prevent people starving to death, and the third and fourth ones will ideally help producers in poor countries produce more and get paid more for it. So if this is implemented, it should make a serious difference.
Here’s what the plan doesn’t include:
action on massive subsidies to biofuels production from food crops, which economists widely agree has driven up food prices (and created dangerous linkages between food and energy prices)
any adaptation to address climate change
details on how private companies will be involved with disclosure of their food stocks to the centralized system
This is probably inevitable, because it’s a political compromise. Maybe some future plan will address these issues, but hopefully we can get there without more massive food price spikes.