Student - July 10, 2008

‘World trade needs regulating to fight food crisis’

In the long term world food trade needs more regulation to prevent shortages and wild price fluctuations. This was the main theme of a press conference that Wageningen UR experts held on Friday 27 June.

Although his opinion differs from that of his colleague economists at LEI, Dr Niek Koning delivered the main part of a Wageningen UR presentation on the current high food prices. Koning’s position is that the agricultural policy of the EU and the US is the underlying cause of the price instability. These countries support their farmers through direct subsidies, but no longer combine these with price stabilisation and supply control as in previous agricultural policies. Since that approach has been dismantled, food prices can no longer be controlled. Koning is in favour of a new system of market stabilisation. ‘This should be done by a UN-type of organisation, or by the WTO, but then a WTO with a different agenda,’ said Koning.

Professor Ruud Huirne, director of the Social Sciences Group, indicated that the experts are divided in their opinions, while Bram Huijsman also said that ‘a kind of Common Agricultural Policy is needed for regions such as West or East Africa’. Huijsman, who is director of Wageningen International, argued for a regional approach to working out Koning’s ideas. As Huijsman put it, there could be a bit less agricultural policy in Europe and a bit more in Africa.

For Africa, the high food prices are a blessing in disguise, said Professor Rudy Rabbinge. According to him, the high prices have resulted in an increased political will to double food production in Africa. This doubling is definitely set to happen, said Rabbinge, especially as there is increasing support for the development of local farmers’ organisations, which will help Africa’s production capacity to grow.