By Tomi Jaiyeola, Humanitas Global
International Trade plays an important role in our efforts to ensure that the world has access to sufficient and nutritious food. With the dramatic impact of climate change on food production, trade policies and agreements need to be revised to consider these impacts.
At the Global Food Security Symposium 2014 held by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the issue of international trade and climate change was discussed as part of the larger theme on “Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate. In their report, the Council proposed for climate change adaptation in international trade negotiations through the control of export restrictions. A negative supply shock means a shortage of agriculture produce and those export restrictions only further limit the access to what is already in limited supply. While export restrictions are beneficial in protecting the domestic markets, some leniency in trade agreements should be considered if we want to deal with the access to food problem. This is not an endorsement for most restrictions to be lifted on agriculture produce because that only further distorts the international market. This is a call to consider that with the instability of the climate, some of those export bans are doing more harm than good.
Climate change means irregularity in the weather – rainstorms or droughts, scorching heat or indefinite snowstorms. At the Chicago Council Symposium, farmer Trey Hill spoke of how farmers were already changing their practices to adapt to climate change, including moving planting times and budgeting for extreme weather events. You never know which one you get, but this becomes the norm. What this means for farmers is a negative supply shock, more severe for regions like sub-Saharan Africa than others. The impact of the climate change on agriculture is being felt now more than it’s ever been before; and farmers need to be more informed to better help deal with this challenge that is becoming the norm.
As production shocks become more frequent, price volatility and an overall increase in the price of food is anticipated just like we saw with the global food crisis in 2008. The effect of climate change on the rate of production in various countries intensifies the concerns for food insecurity, especially in regards to international trade.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) should be clear on what these controls will be; what purpose they serve; and ensure that whatever new trade agreements are put in place should be followed appropriately. That way you prevent any international market distortion that could arise and make some countries worse off than before the controls were implemented. It is imperative that whatever new controls are put in place is beneficial to the global food market.
There are some positive impacts to climate change – Like Britain being able to grow more sweetcorn, grapes, sunflowers, soya and maize; or potatoes and quinoa being able to grow better in Latin America as it adjusts to the extreme weather conditions. Nevertheless, there are many regions that are expected to experience a decline in their yields and will either have to ban exports like Russia did in 2010 or at least restrict exports like Argentina, Cambodia, China, Egypt and India did during the global food crisis in 2008. More leniencies in trade agreements is just one means of helping increase their access to food.