Trade Matters for Global Food Security
International agricultural trade is critical to support global food security and eradicate poverty. This week, we hope you will find the featured stories emblematic of this message, aimed at improving understanding, encouraging discussion and supporting current and forthcoming trade and investment programming within the Feed the Future initiative.
The U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) notes trade more than 80 times as contributing to inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition.
Trade isn’t just about big ships and ports; it’s also the rural smallholder producer trying to get better prices for their products in higher-value markets in the city or increasing access to, and the availability of, safer and more nutritious food products for marginalized groups.
The global events of the past few years have highlighted this connection between trade and food security more than ever. Starting with countries’ trade-restrictive measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine and the ongoing impacts of climate change, food systems are under strain. Improving productivity is important, but alone, it is insufficient for enhanced resilience to these shocks. Food systems resilience is rooted in the diversification of supply. This means taking steps to help safe and nutritious food move from areas of plenty to areas of hunger, whether or not it crosses a border.
A recent communication by the United States to the World Trade Organization (WTO) notes that “trade and transparent, predictable, open markets are vital components in addressing each dimension of food security. The WTO agreements have a proven track-record of improving the global food security landscape through their core principles and promotion of strong, rules-based trading and science-based regulatory systems.”
This message was echoed by the WTO’s Trade Dialogues on Food earlier this year. Some key takeaways included trade’s role in strengthening agricultural value chains, ensuring farmers’ access to inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, and its centrality in climate change adaptation.
As noted by the Food Trade Coalition for Africa, intra-African trade is key to facilitating access to safe food products in Africa. The 2023 Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor report highlights that intra-African trade has increased significantly since the early 2000s; however, this expansion has slowed in the face of current international challenges and could be stimulated by deeper trade agreements. Building on the sustained work of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, the newly ratified African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement offers great promise for a renewal of intra-African trade integration, with the World Bank estimating that by 2035 this agreement may increase intra-African exports by more than 81%, thereby increasing Africa’s income by $450 billion.
But, while commitments are made regionally, they are implemented locally. To achieve these benefits, country governments will need to undertake important policy and regulatory reforms to align with their continental commitments; this can serve as an area of policy support for Feed the Future countries across Africa.
In 2021, the U.S. government interagency developed an Activity Design Guidance document on “Supporting Agricultural Trade for Improved Food Security Programming,” which offers design principles for practitioners to ensure agricultural trade program interventions achieve GFSS intermediate results and objectives.
We hope you will see these principles reflected in the stories this week and, more broadly, that trade and investment will remain front-and-center in our global food security discourse.
Thanks for tuning in!