Argentina’s announcement that it would export an additional 2.75 million tonnes of maize this year will help ease tight international markets, the United Nations food agency said today, adding that while this is a welcome measure, countries must remain vigilante to avoid a global food crisis.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the announcement was made by Argentina’s Minister of Agriculture, Norberto Yauhar, who had just met with FAO’s Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, at the UN agency’s headquarters in Rome, Italy.
Argentina is the world’s second biggest exporter of maize, and was responsible roughly for 15 per cent of the world’s maize exports in the last three years. The increase will bring the amount of maize from the 2011-2012 harvest to a total of 16.45 million tonnes, FAO stated in a news release.
This summer’s drought in the United States – the worst in over 50 years – fuelled fears of a food crisis when the FAO Food Price Index, which measures the prices of 55 food commodities, including meat, dairy, sugar, and cereals, surged by six per cent in July. However, food prices have remained steady in the past month.
During their meeting, Mr. Yauhar and Mr. Graziano da Silva noted that the world is now better placed to cope with higher food prices than during the crisis of 2007-2008, partly because of mechanisms likes the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which contributes to increasing market transparency and reducing price volatility.
Mechanisms like AMIS, which was established in 2011 by the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies, make it possible for countries to coordinate action and respond faster to volatile food price situations, Mr. Graziano da Silva said.
The two men noted that there was better coordination within the UN system to address food security issues and stressed that it was important for countries to work together through international mechanisms rather than taking unilateral action, according to FAO. They also underlined that financial markets and trade should be regulated to avoid speculation on prices, which contribute to their volatility.
Mr. Graziano da Silva also emphasized the need for the international donor community to increase its immediate and long-term support to poor countries, which are significantly affected by changes in the prices of the food basket.
According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) – which provides food relief in humanitarian emergencies such as war and natural disasters – every 10 per cent increase in the price of its food basket means finding an additional $200 million a year to buy the same amount of food.