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Symposium 2010

Solution for Meeting the Rising Global Demand for Food

The Challenge

It is becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy the rising global demand for food in a sustainable manner. A number of factors contribute to uncertainty about the world’s ability to meet the food ...

It is becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy the rising global demand for food in a sustainable manner. A number of factors contribute to uncertainty about the world’s ability to meet the food demand of an increasing population: average living standards are rising; land use is shifting from agriculture to urban and industrial uses; the production of nonfood crops for biofuels is on the rise; investments in increasing agricultural productivity are growing slowly; water and arable land are increasingly becoming scarce; and global warming is making it more difficult to produce food in some poor countries. Moreover, the food price crisis of 2008 added fuel to the fire and put food security on top of the policy agenda.

Create international grain reserves and manage them effectively, for example, by issuing food vouchers to people who are affected by high food price volatility.

International reserves of the world’s most important food grains (for example, wheat, rice and maize) can prevent or dampen price hikes of the kind experienced in 2008 and the summer of 2010. Every country would contribute to the reserves depending on their production potential and domestic demand in normal years.

When food crises occur—which can be determined through a monitoring and early warning system (for example, based on a “poor consumer price index”)—food vouchers would be provided to people who are affected by increasing prices. This system would be better than cash transfers to affected areas because such transfers tend to increase prices even more.

A global emergency physical grain reserve is crucial in times of food security crises. Owned and managed by an institution like the World Food Programme, the reserve should be created through donations of grain stocks from large food producers, such as the US and China. This emergency reserve should be strategically positioned in these large food-producing countries and, more importantly, in food-importing poor countries, such as Ethiopia and Bangladesh, for easy access.

A first step to establishing such a grain reserve is currently being taken by the rice reserve in Asia. The progress and challenges of this initiative should be closely monitored to draw lessons before the system can be set up for other grains and scaled up to a global level.

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