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Global Food Policy Report Launched Today

April 22, 2012

2011 saw significantly increased support of agriculture and food policy as tools for global poverty reduction. It also brought serious challenges, most notably in the form of food price volatility, extreme weather shocks, famine, unrest, and conflicts.

IFPRI’s new flagship publication, the Global Food Policy Report, presents a broad picture of 2011’s major food policy issues and areas that require future attention. Based on rigorous research, it is designed specifically for policymakers, NGOs, development implementers, and other non-technical audiences.

Last year was marked by new thinking and actors who prioritized agriculture and food security in development and political agendas after many years of neglect. Financial commitments by African governments and increased support by donors and foundations indicate that agriculture is now seen as a key contribution to global economic and food security, as well as to nutrition and health. New players, such as World Economic Forum partner companies and Group of 20 countries’ ministers of agriculture, had significant roles in the global food policy landscape in 2011. These new players offer financial support to food security efforts in developing countries and a wealth of knowledge and expertise in addressing the complexity of, and challenges facing, the global food system.

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2011 also saw serious threats to food security, including volatile food prices, extreme weather, and inadequate responses to food emergencies. There are also considerable future challenges: a number of global hot spots, including North Korea and Africa’s Sahel region, threaten to erupt in food crises. Also, long-term food and nutrition insecurity makes it unlikely that the world will meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

The Report identifies several responses to these challenges. These include finding new ways to exploit the links between agriculture and other sectors; paying attention to gender equity; and initiating a global system to measure, track, and monitor the cross-sectoral impacts of agriculture, food and nutrition security, energy, and natural resources. The Report also recommends basing the prices of natural resources and food on their full value to society, incorporating their social and environmental costs.

For the international community, the 2011 Global Food Policy Report makes a number of specific recommendations:

• The G20 should do more to reduce competition between biofuel and food production and discourage trade restrictions that exacerbate price swings.
• The international community should consolidate global and regional agricultural growth strategies and create or strengthen the institutions needed to make these strategies work.
• Rio+20 conference participants should integrate economic, social, and environmental sustainability in their discussions and commit to concrete action on long-term development challenges, including poor nutrition, degraded soils, and scarce water.
• A broad intersectoral coalition should work together to address nutrition, food, and health issues.

The Global Food Policy Report will be launched today at a policy seminar featuring Fawzi Al-Sultan, Chair of IFPRI’s Board of Trustees; Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General; Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Minister of Food and Disaster Management, Bangladesh; and Kathy Spahn, President and Chief Executive Officer, Helen Keller International.

IFPRI’s 2011 Global Food Policy Report—the first in a new annual series—reflects on the challenges and developments of 2011 and provides an outlook for 2012.