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One Rome meeting off, another on

Citing a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization food index report showing that food prices went up only slightly in September, the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) group established by the G-20 countries has decided a meeting of its Rapid Response Forum is not necessary. But another meeting proposed by French President François Hollande to discuss world food problems will be held in Rome on October 16, on the sidelines of World Food Day activities.

The announcement that the AMIS group had decided the Rapid Response Forum meeting is not necessary came from the U.S. embassy to the U.N. agencies in Rome.

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson
“The U.S. concurs in the judgment of the G-20 AMIS representatives that in light of the information available to us today, agricultural commodity markets are functioning and a meeting of the Rapid Response Forum is not necessary at this time,” Karen Johnson, the charge d’affaires, said in a statement.

“Governments around the world, including large agricultural exporters in G-20, have exercised prudence and responsibility in policy-making, including by avoiding export bans that exacerbated volatility in 2007-2008,” she said.

The announcement was made by the U.S. embassy because USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber chairs AMIS this year. Glauber told The Hagstrom Report in an email that the AMIS, which was set up by the G-20 in June 2011 to improve market information, had concluded that “despite high prices, markets are working fine and that there is no need for a meeting of the Rapid Response Forum. There had been thoughts earlier in the summer when prices had spiked that a meeting of the RRF might be warranted.”


2012_1004_FAOfoodpriceindex

Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
The FAO reported today that following two months of stability, the FAO Food Price Index rose slightly last month, up 1.4 percent, or 3 points, from its level in August.

The index, based on the prices of a basket of internationally traded food commodities, climbed to 216 points in September from 213 points in August, the FAO said. The rise reflected strengthening dairy and meat prices and more contained increases for cereals. Prices of sugar and oils, on the other hand, fell.

The FAO Index stands 22 points below its peak of 238 points in February 2011, and 9 points below its level of 225 points in September 2011.

FAO’s latest forecasts confirm a decline in global cereal production this year from the record registered in 2011, the agency, said, while record harvests are expected in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). In Afghanistan, “a bumper wheat harvest has been gathered,” the agency said.

FAO also said that the food security situation in East Africa had improved, but that the situation in Syria and Yemen continues to deteriorate as a result of high levels of poverty, prolonged conflict, and high food and fuel prices.

Although the monthly food price increase was small, Oxfam today released a report showing that rising food prices have helped drive sales of land in developing countries. The report calls on the World Bank to temporarily halt its investments in large scale agricultural land acquisitions in order to set standards that prevent “land grabbing.”

“Governments must begin to genuinely tackle the underlying causes of food price volatility at the Committee on World Food Security this month,” Oxfam spokesman Colin Roche said in a news release. “They must acknowledge that the right to food is at the heart of the climate change debate. They need to boost food reserves and strengthen social protection programs for populations that are at risk of hunger.”

Meanwhile, at Hollande’s urging, the FAO will convene a meeting to discuss world food price volatility on the sidelines of the annual World Food Day celebration on October 16.

“France shares FAO’s and the U.N.’s position that we are not in a food price crisis, but we need to remain vigilant,” FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said after a meeting with Hollande in Paris on September 17. Graziano da Silva noted that the AMIS system was established during the French presidency of the G-20.

Hollande has launched a global campaign to win support for strategic stocks of agricultural commodities. Graziano da Silva has said he supports Hollande’s stocks initiative, but European Union Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said this week that was not the best way to tame food prices, advising a focus on agricultural investment to boost production, Reuters reported.

USDA has not yet made a determination on who will attend representing the United States, a department spokesman said today, adding that the meeting is open to ministers or their designees.