Population growth, changes in dietary habits, urbanisation and shifts in wealth, have become the primary drivers of today’s changing demand for food and agricultural products suggesting that significantly more food will need to be grown as we move towards 2025. Given the heterogeneous endowment of countries with respect to agro-ecological conditions, this new environment dictates that a robust international market functions properly in order to satisfy growing demand. At the same time, production shortfalls, combined with high energy prices, declining growth rates of cereal yields and rising demand for biofuels seem to have limited prospects on the supply side while trade-related policy measures such as export restrictions have further exacerbated price volatility on world markets. Complicating further the equation, in the medium term, the impact of climate change will most probably affect yields and change comparative advantages in agriculture.
These profound structural changes seem to have halted the long term fall in agricultural prices and have given way to a period of high and volatile prices, which most analysts expect to continue in the foreseeable future. Current trade policy frameworks do not address many of these emerging issues. Indeed, today’s global food system is vastly different from what it was in 1983 when the parameters to address global trade in agriculture were set in the multilateral system. In fact, the system is dramatically different from even the world of 2001 when the terms of reference for the WTO Doha Round were agreed.
The E15 expert dialogue process therefore examined the emerging challenges and opportunities for food security resulting from changes in global supply and demand, and the role of agriculture trade, policies and rules; assessed the adequacy of the global trading system to respond to the new situation; and recommended options for policies and international trade rules that respond to this new reality and promote food security globally.
Towards this end, the group investigated the linkages between trade and food security and identified how trade can support the fight against hunger. It addressed the linkages between food and agricultural trade and a sustainable global food system and identified concrete steps for the multilateral trading system to support the positive role of trade and to mitigate negative effects. Finally, the group suggested feasible ways to induce discussion on these options at the WTO and non-WTO negotiations and agreements relevant to food security and agriculture.