Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Food Crisis at the G8 Conference

Sources: World Bank, Financial Times

Last week, the G8 held a conference in Hokkaido, Japan. One of the most important discussion topics at the conference was agriculture, including the rapidly rising food prices. The last time agriculture made the G8 discussion docket was in 1981. While the World Bank previously proposed a ten-point plan to change the direction of food prices, some believe that the plan will be insufficient to truly address a growing problem.

In a statement at the G8 conference, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick emphasized again the importance of the three pillars behind his ten-point plan to end the food crisis. Zoellick contends that, “for globalization to succeed and to achieve its promise, it must be both inclusive and sustainable. We must protect the most vulnerable even as we offer a pathway to opportunity.”

He plans to first meet pressing needs by creating a food delivery network encompassing as many means as possible. He also plans to double funding for the World Food Program. Second, Zoellick believes that providing farming supplies can increase immediate food production in Southern and Western Africa where the farming season takes place between September and December. Last, the World Bank President recommends reducing or eliminating barriers and tariffs to make food cheaper and more accessible. Thus far, twenty-six countries have taken at least some action.

Commentators believe that the green revolution, the infusion of agriculture in developing countries, is over. In fact, they blame the revolution, in part, for the current crisis. Since the initial boost in agriculture in the second half of last century, population growth has superseded agricultural growth. Critics say that past agricultural development led to a decrease in investment and eventually a slowdown in productivity, as food quantities appeared sustainable. These commentators believe that the G8 conference will push for measures to recreate the short-term effects of the green revolution. They find it unlikely, though, that countries will go beyond reducing barriers to actually enforcing long-term policy changes.

1. Given some nations’ reluctance to decrease biofuel development in the name of food production, are long-term policy changes a feasible resolution to the food crisis? Will nations come together to end the problem through policy?
2. Will Zoellick’s three pillars supporting his ten point plan go beyond addressing the immediate problem or will support be discontinued after immediate obligations have been fulfilled?

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