Informing the G20 Agenda: Panelists offer recommendations on addressing food price volatility

June 13, 2011

"Trade in the agricultural sector remains quite distorted," said Charlotte Hebebrand of the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council, while speaking on actions needed to address food price volatility. In her address, Hebebrand remarked that in addition to laws that protect exporters, the rights of importers must be safeguarded. On biofuels, she asserted that "biofuels subsidies have clearly contributed to food price increases."

Dr. Peter Timmer, of Harvard University, followed by stating that we must find a way to fund long term, sustainable agricultural research. In discussing reserves and trade, he stated that "the whole point of building reserves is so that countries would trust them, which supports trade." He also underscored the importance of rich countries' dietary habits, concluding that their citizens must eat in a less energy intensive manner. In his closing remarks, he argued that the 'financialization' of food markets have significantly increased volatility.

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Robert Townsend of the World Bank offered the panel's concluding remarks, during which he presented data showing trends and explained why we must pay careful attention to them and closed by offering a reminder to the G20 that, "longer term productivity growth is a key part of improving resilience and achieving a reduction in volatility."

Following the panelists, members of both the live and remote audiences posed questions and offered remarks after which, Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, concluded by offering insight and expectations for the upcoming G20 meeting.

Additional Comments by Peter Timmer and Charlotte Hebebrand