In the name of food security: the achievements and failures of developing countries in the Bali Ministerial Conference.

Author:Hsueh, Chingwen

    According to the 2013 estimate of the Food and Agriculture Organization, 842 million people suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-2013. (1) In other words, approximately one out of every eight people in the world is undernourished. Developing countries account for most of these people, 827 million in total. (2) The international community is highly aware of the famine and numerous international organizations, including the World Trade Organization ("WTO"), exert efforts to solve the problem from their perspective. According to the preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization ("WTO Agreement"), trade is not an end in itself but rather a means of "raising standards of living." (3) Furthermore, members of the WTO noted nontrade concerns in the preamble of the Agreement on Agriculture ("AoA"), including:

    food security and the need to protect the environment; having regard to the agreement that special and differential treatment for developing countries is an integral element of the negotiations, and taking into account the possible negative effects of the implementation of the reform programme on least-developed and net food-importing developing countries. (4) In addition, Article 20 of the AoA emphasizes that there is much to accomplish to complete the reform of agricultural trade, which considers food security. (5) These provisions show that the WTO considers food security essential in the trade legal system, especially in developing countries. Additional attention on food security in liberalizing the trade of foodstuffs can be assumed.

    The Doha Development Agenda ("DDA") was established to provide a framework to avoid the negative effects of free trade on food security in developing countries. (6) However, fruitless and endless negotiations cause the objective of the DDA to seem more an illusion than a possibility. The setback of the "draft modalities" (7) in 2008 rendered the DDA even further from achieving its aim. In 2013, the opportunity to complete the DDA reemerged in the Bali Ministerial Conference. After five days of intensive discussions, the ministers of members adopted the decisions known as the "Bali Package," which was a result of the United States trading food security proposals for the Agreement on Trade Facilitation. (8) The decisions concerning agriculture primarily followed the draft proposed by developing countries. (9) In other words, the Bali declaration and decisions concerning agriculture considered more needs of developing countries than those of developed countries.

    This study assesses the extent of which the Bali Package can ensure food security in developing countries. Part II presents a discussion on the policy options for developing countries to ensure food security. The discussion focuses on the adverse effect on other developing countries and attempts to determine the policies that contribute to food security at the global level. Part III presents an analysis the implication of the WTO rules on food security and identifies the concerns of developing countries. Part IV presents an examination of the improvement that the Bali Package can contribute to the food security in developing countries and the world. A preliminary observation of whether developing countries have achieved food security in trade is provided in the conclusion.


    Determining the needs of developing countries for achieving food security is difficult because of two reasons. First, the concept of food security has evolved constantly in previous decades, reflecting the changes in the considerations for food security, which involves more than mere famine. (10) An effective strategy for food security should solve numerous concerns such as those of hunger, economic development, and the environment. Prioritizing all the various concerns of food security might be difficult for developing countries. Second, food security is not defined at a single level but can be defined at different levels such as the household, national, and global level. (11) Food security at one level does not guarantee it at another level. Moreover, the strategy for food security in one country might have a negative spillover effect in another. For instance, a country in a food crisis might impose an export restriction on a produce, causing the world price of that product to increase and putting poor countries that rely on imported food at risk. The conflicts of interests among developing countries regarding food security are not uncommon. In addition, a unilateral strategy might not be effective without the cooperation of other countries. For the common good, pursuing food security at both national and global levels instead of only at the national level is preferable.

    1. The definition of food security

      The term "food security" was first mentioned in the mid-1970s when the World Food Conference was held to discuss the global food crisis. The focus was on food supply and the price stability of foodstuffs at international and national levels. (12) The conference defined food security as the "availability at all times of adequate world supplies of basic food-stuffs ... to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption in countries with low levels of per capita intake and to offset fluctuations in production and prices." (13) In the 1980s, the Food and Agriculture Organization ("FAO") emphasized the importance of access to food, which was defined in the following goal: "all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need." (14) In 1986, the World Bank Report on Poverty and Hunger focused on the temporal dynamics of food security. The report differentiated chronic food insecurity from transitory food insecurity. (15) Chronic food insecurity is associated with the problem of continuing or structural poverty and low incomes; transitory food insecurity refers to situations of intensified pressure caused by natural disasters. (16) Food security in general was defined as an "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active and healthy life." (17)

      The most widely accepted definition of food security was provided in the World Food Summit, 1996. According to the World Food Summit Plan of Action, "[f]ood security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life." (18)

      The concept of food security comprises four dimensions: food availability, access to food, utilization, and stability. Food availability refers to "[t]he availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports." (19) Access to food refers to the "[a]ccess by individuals to adequate resources (entitlements) for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet." (20) Stability exists when "population[s], household[s] or individuals] ... have access to adequate food at all times." (21) The concept of stability overlaps with the concepts of food availability and access to food, except that stability focuses on the risks of losing food availability or access as the consequences of sudden crises or cyclical events. Utilization is defined as "[utilization of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met." (22) According to this definition, nonfood aspects enhance the concept of food security, which aims for not only the survival of human beings but also for healthy lives.

    2. Increasing food availability

      Food availability concerns the quantities of foodstuffs, which are determined by supply and demand. Generally, food insecurity at the global level is caused more by the lack of access to food than by an insufficient supply of food. (23) Food insecurity regarding food quantities at the national level can be alleviated by trade or food aids. In other words, enough food is available for everyone, but not everyone can afford the price. However, the world is not guaranteed food availability because of the potential increase of food demand and the uncertainty of the food supply. The demand of food is expected to increase because of the population and income growth of developing countries. (24) The increased income will raise the per capita calorie demand in developing countries to higher than a healthy level. (25) According to these two factors, the global agricultural production should increase substantially, at least by sixty percent compared with 2005-2007. (26) However, increasing the food supply is challenging because of climate change. Although the negative effect of climate change on agriculture is difficult to estimate, the risk of increased food price is evident. (27)

      To ensure food availability, developing countries should either limit the food demand or increase the food supply. Developing countries have lower productivity than that of developed countries. The yield gap can be closed by changing farm sizes, improving management capacity, increasing access to input and output markets, and increasing the effectiveness of input use. (28) Improving productivity requires national investment in agricultural research, technological development, (29) and agricultural education, which enables farmers to manage their farms and outputs efficiently. In addition, expanding the land for agricultural use sustainably can increase the supply of food. However, little or no room is found for the expansion of arable land. (30) Arable lands are also subject to nonagricultural uses, pollution, and erosion. Economic incentives are believed to resolve these problems to some extent. (31)

      Much can be achieved toward reducing the excessive food demand, such as minimizing supply-chain losses, biofuel consumption, and consumer wastes...

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