Ending hunger will require trade policy reform: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

12 October 2009

Governments must take urgent action to help the 1 billion people that are malnourished today, especially with population growth and climate change likely to increase these numbers in years ahead. Analysis from ICTSD, released ahead of this year's World Food Day on 16 October, shows that trade policy reform must be a vital component of any solution to the ongoing crisis.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has recently proposed an ambitious new goal of eliminating hunger by 2025. But ICTSD analysis suggests this goal will be hard to achieve unless governments tackle the underlying causes of declining productivity and under-investment in developing country agriculture.

A new ICTSD-IPC study by Jodie Keane suggests that climate change could cause farm output in sub-Saharan Africa to decrease by 12 percent by 2080 - although in some African countries this figure could be as much as 60 percent, with agricultural exports declining by up to one fifth in others. Adapting to climate change could cost the agriculture sector $14bn globally a year, the study finds. “Governments will need to take concrete measures to support farm productivity in poor countries, by ensuring that trade policies do not undermine investment in agriculture” notes ICTSD Programmes Director Christophe Bellmann.

In particular, developed countries will need to cut drastically their heavy agricultural subsidies, which artificially lower world prices for key farm products, making developing country farming less viable and increasing poor consumers' dependence on volatile international markets. In 2008, OECD countries provided as much as US$ 265 billion in total support to their producers, a figure which dwarfs the US$ 4 billion they provided the previous year in aid to developing country agriculture.

At the same time, developing country farmers need improved access to developed country markets, especially for key export products. ICTSD analysis shows that, despite relatively low levels of protection for many farm goods, developed countries maintain exceptionally high tariffs on important developing country export products.

Developing countries will still need to make use of import tariffs protect products that matter to small farmers and rural communities, ICTSD analysis shows. In the event of a sudden surge in import volumes or a significant drop in prices, developing country governments will also need to be allowed to impose additional 'safeguard' duties that are effective in bridging the gap between domestic and international prices.

“Climate change merely increases the urgency of reforming trade policies to ensure that global food security needs are met” said Bellmann.

Governments now have a unique opportunity to tackle the threats to global food security, with three major international events looming: the FAO's World Food Summit on 16-18 November, the WTO Ministerial Conference, from 30 November – 2 December, and the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, from 7-18 December. Only a coherent approach to food security and trade is likely to deliver meaningful lasting results for the world's poor.

Notes to editors:

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) is a non-governmental organization, based in Geneva, which – by empowering stakeholders in trade policy through information, networking, dialogue, well-targeted research, and capacity building – seeks to influence the international trade system such that it advances the goal of sustainable development. For more information on ICTSD's work on agricultural trade and sustainable development please visit: www.ictsd.org/programmes/agriculture

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is an organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, which is responsible for liberalising and regulating international trade in goods, services and other areas. It has 153 Members.

The WTO Doha Round of trade negotiations was launched in Doha, Qatar, in 2001. It seeks to reduce trade barriers to a variety of goods and services, but has been plagued by repeated missed deadlines and breakdowns. In agriculture, it aims at “substantial improvements in market access; reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support”.

The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) promotes a more open and equitable global food system by pursuing pragmatic trade and development policies in food and agriculture to meet the world's growing needs. IPC convenes influential policymakers, agribusiness executives, farm leaders, and academics from developed and developing countries to clarify complex issues, build consensus, and advocate policies to decision-makers. For more information see: www.agritrade.org.

The FAO has concluded that, with an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, there are now 1.02 billion malnourised people in the world, or almost one sixth of all humanity.

The new ICTSD-IPC study by Jodie Keane, "Climate change, agriculture and aid for trade" will be released shortly on www.ictsd.org. An advance draft copy is online at: http://www.ictsd.org/themes/climate-change/climate-change-agriculture-and-aid-for-trade