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Global Food Security 2013

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  • Published: 2013-09-27
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Introduction
In 2012, the G8 launched a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an alliance of G8 countries, developing country governments and private companies. The G8 will return to the subject during the UK’s Presidency in 2013. As well as hosting the G8 summit on 17-18 June, on 8 June the UK will host an event called ‘Nutrition for Growth: Beating hunger through nutrition and science'.

The emphasis on nutrition is most timely. There have been two notable ‘shocks’ or ‘spikes’ in global food prices in recent years, peaking in June 2008 and February 2011. The 2008 price spike led to stagnation in the fight against hunger: while the proportion of the global population suffering from hunger had been declining before the price spike, the rate of progress declined when the spike occurred.

The price spikes reflect a number of changes, including fundamental changes in supply and demand. Demand is increasing. UK law requires 5% of total road transport fuel to be derived from biofuels. In addition, EU targets will require 10% of transport energy to be drawn from renewable sources by 2020, causing dramatic food price increases. We recommend that the Government revise the 5% target to exclude agriculturallyproduced biofuels, and that it push for reform of the EU target.

Globally, demand for meat is increasing, leading to a growth in the production of grainfed livestock, with crops used to feed livestock instead of humans. We recommend a focus on sustainable systems such as pasture-fed cattle rather than on grain-fed livestock. Additionally, as much of 30% of food produced globally is wasted. In developed countries such as the UK, a large amount of food is wasted by consumers and by the food industry. We recommend that the Government set targets for food waste reduction for producers and retailers and introduce sanctions for failure to meet the targets.

Rising world population, expected to increase from 7.1 billion today to 9.3 billion by 2050, will also add to demand. There is a great unmet need for contraception. DFID has made significant efforts to address this need, and must maintain this focus on women’s reproductive rights.

Supply must be increased. Donor funding for agriculture has shown a slight increase in recent years, but the historical trend is one of decline: donor funding for agriculture fell by 72% between 1988 and 2003. Smallholders have a key role to play in food security. DFID should devote a greater proportion of its budget on supporting agricultural extension services. A small but potentially increasing number of smallholders are able to sell their produce on to large corporations. To support this, farmer organisations such as co-operatives are vital. We recommend that DFID support the formation of farmer organisations. Additionally, DFID should increase its funding for organisations such as the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) which help smallholders to engage with large corporations.

In many developing countries, large corporations are buying up areas of land previously farmed by smallholders. Some allege that this is sometimes done without the informed consent of the smallholders. Implementation of the UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure would help, as would work to establish land registers. We recommend that DFID launch additional projects on land registration.

Both smallholders and large commercial producers need an enabling environment.Investment in roads, storage and irrigation infrastructure is vital. Additionally, climate change is making it more difficult for farmers to decide when to sow, cultivate and harvest their crops. We welcome the Government’s pledge to provide £2.9 billion of funding to tackle climate change over the next two years; building the resilience of the poor to climate-related shocks will also be crucial.

There have been various suggestions as to how food price volatility might be mitigated,but the wisdom of some of these suggestions is dubious. Export controls have served to exacerbate the situation. However, there may be a case for judicious use of stocks to reduce food price volatility. We recommend that the Government conduct further research into this. We recognise that misinformation about the level of stocks in China may have contributed to the 2008 price spike, but the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), formed in 2011, now requires participant countries to provide monthly data on stocks. This is a major step forward in the fight against food price volatility.

Social protection, including cash transfers and other social insurance and social welfare schemes, plays a vital role in protecting the food security of the poorest when shocks occur. In 14 of the 29 countries in which it has bilateral programmes DFID does not currently plan to fund social protection; we ask it to explain the thinking behind this.

Where emergency interventions are needed to protect food security, cash- and voucherbased schemes are usually preferable to in-kind food aid. The World Food Programme’s (WFP’s) ‘Purchase for Progress’ scheme, under which food aid is procured from suppliers in developing countries, supports WFP’s humanitarian work while also supporting local economies. We were pleased that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State agreed to consider scaling up DFID’s support, and we reiterate our belief that this would be a wise thing for DFID to do.

Undernutrition has long-term health implications and represents a barrier to development more broadly. Although DFID works bilaterally in 29 countries, it only has bilateral nutrition programmes in 16 countries. We recommend that DFID launch additional bilateral nutrition programmes, with a particular focus on nutrition during pregnancy and early years.

Our report shows that real progress is achievable. With some of the measures we propose, the impacts will by nature be gradual, becoming apparent only in the mediumto long-term. For other measures, however, the impacts will be immediate, the reform of biofuels targets being the most obvious example. All that is needed is political will.

 
 
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