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#1: What policy space is needed for African countries to ensure their food security?

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Soonho.Kim
#1: What policy space is needed for African countries to ensure their food security?

Questions for discussion:

Public stock holding policies for Africa in the WTO context: What can be done? 

Protecting African producers from import surges: Are additional safeguards needed? 

What is the role of trade in climate change adaptation strategy for African countries?

 

S.Allen
Welcome

Welcome to the online dialogue about the WTO and food security in Africa.  This discussion begins with a converstation regarding domestic support (input subsidies, price supports, etc.) and further needs to ensure food security.  

goddy_master@ya...
food security

firts issue to address is low productivity that threatens the food security balance. input subsidy and price supports are necesary and should be provided by government. farmers need to use improved seeds, seedlings and planting materials whose cost is usually above their income and savings. at harvest, the structure of the rural markets are defective without storage facilities and command very low prices. price support is needed.

 

Joe Glauber
the importance of improving productivity

I agree with the comment on the importance of improving productivity gains, particularly in less developed countries who have seen fewer investments.  Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture allows support to producers in low income low resource countries to encourage the use of production-enhancing inputs.  Price support measures are distortionary and are problematic particularly for countries who have no bound Aggregate Measurement of Support.  If the issue is that producers have little recourse but to market their crop at harvest, providing producers with adequate storage facilities would allow them flexibility to market their production throughout the year and thus take better opportunity of price rises.

Antoine Bouet
Public stockholdings

The constitution of food reserves and food stocks is a much discussed issue for African countries. Public stockholdings have been much criticized. First they are implemented with too many objectives: emergency aid, helping poor consumers in times of food scarcity or in times of high prices, providing support to producers in order to keep prices at profitable levels. Second they are very costly (this is often related to the first reason). Cash transfers to urban and rural households based on poverty criteria may be a better alternative.

S.Allen
Cash transfers vs. Public stockholdings

This inefficiency of public stockholding is a very good point.  In the cash transfer option, how can this be implemented to respond to shocks (prices or supply shocks) and are there examples to point to of doing this effectively?

Antoine Bouet
Cash transfers

More and more countries are implementing cash transfers programs. A recent report by the World Bank noticed that 'Between 2010 and 2013, the number of African countries with unconditional cash transfers doubled to 40 nations.' These programs have for example implemented successfully in Congo DR, Malawi, Ethiopia, Niger, ... It is important to be flexible and design a nice program depending on local conditions: type of shocks, reliability of food distribution systems, degree of corruption, gender issues and  intra-household decision making process, ...

Sara.Gustafson
Successful cash transfer programs

Can you talk a little bit about what has made cash transfer programs in these countries successful? Are there specific examples of what they have done/have not done that could be lessons learned for other countries?

jglauber
Public stocks

There are two primary concerns with public stockholding schemes.  First, stock holding programs can provide direct support to producer prices and thus potentially distort production decisions.  This is particularly the case when acquisition prices are known in advance.  Under current WTO rules (Annex 2, paragraph 3 of the Agreement on Agriculture) public stockholding programs that acquire stocks at current market prices are considered exempt from domestic support reduction committments.  

A second, related, concern with public stockholding schemes is what happens to public stocks when they are released.  If public stocks are released in export markets they can depress world market prices and harm foreign producers.

S.Allen
Public stocks

Given the comments so far, do you see any value in public stockholding?  If so, when and under what conditions and stipulations?

Sherman Robinson
Public stocks: strategic reserves

·      Whie the economics profession is not fond of public stockholding, the impact of climate change, with increasing incidence of extreme events, brings the question back into play. With the failure of the Doha Round, developing countries have no reason to think that global agricultural markets will operate smoothly under climate shocks. There is an argument for establishing strategic reserves to handle such events. Perhaps the WFP could have an expanded mandate.

Joe Glauber
Regional emergency grain

Regional emergency grain reserves exist today.  The ASEAN plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) was created in 2011 to provide emergency grain to ASEAN countries.  ECOWAS is in the process of creating a regional humanitarian grain reserve as well.  It remains to be seen how these programs will work in practice (neither has been tested with a large shortfall).  The current WTO "green box" criteria on public stockholding would not preclude regional grain reserves as long as grain is procured at current market prices (as opposed to pre-announced target prices).  They should not provide market price support.

S.Allen
Grain Reserves

What are the recommendations for the functioning of these regional reserves to ensure equity and oversight of prices?

Murshed
Food Security

A variety of studies suggest that food insecurity in Africa, engender riots and conflict. Food security emanates from stocks rather than flows. But a great deal needs to be done to ensure the flows of food

Murshed
Food Security

As always food security is being threatened by the production of cash crops, like cut flowers. The pesticides are threatening fisheries in Lake Victoria

Murshed
Food Security

Distribution is essential to food security. income inequality and social protection measures are needed for food security. In other words, the reduction of inequality as well as social protection policies

Rob Vos
Policy space

Developing countries have ample policy space to support food security, both to promote availability and improve access to food. WTO rules put some constraints to trade restrictions and price support measures, but these not always are key towards supporting food security. Indeed as mentioned by Murshed social protection may be essential for many poor to enhance resilience to shocks and secure access to food, but equally essential are improvements in infrastructure (storage, transport, energy) to ease access to inputs and markets to push for higher productivity in food production and farm incomes.  

Soonho.Kim
social protection and resilience

Question via Whatsapp: Given the popularity of price supports among many policymakers, what support or information is needed so that more focus is on social protection and resilience focused programs for the most vulnerable? 

Rob Vos
social protection and resilience

Thanks for this question. Many countries now have quite some experience with expanding social transfer programmes finding positive impacts on poverty reduction and improved food security. They help the poor in managing thir risks better. But social protection is no panacea. Likewise, price support isn't. As said, investing in rural infrastructure, knowledge and market operations will be essential to more structurally improve livelihoods and resilience among poor farm populations. Much of this is also known to policy makers, but fiscal constraints and political priorities often stand in the way of more structrual solutions. Continuing a price subisdy is easier than implementing a borader rural development strategy.    

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