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Earlier this year, with the food crisis in the daily headlines, the world's leaders made promises -- first in Rome at an FAO gathering in June and then at the G-8 summit in Japan the following month -- to make a concerted effort to provide relief for the world's poor. Among the pledges was that of Prime Minister Fukuda that Japan was prepared "to release in the near future over 300,000 tons." With the government holding 1.3 million tons of imported rice, my colleagues and I wrote that "it is time for Japan to quit stalling and show some real leadership by releasing its unwanted rice stocks."
Sadly, this is still true. Month after month has passed without Tokyo acting on its promise. Discussions with the Philippines over 200,000 tons have gone nowhere because Tokyo has insisted on a price that is now well above the world market -- all the while selling increased quantities of its rice at lower prices to the local animal feed industry.
Japan would be wrong to think that the world has entirely forgotten. As the Washington Post pointed out in an editorial on Tuesday, Release the Rice (III), world prices have declined one-third from their April high of $1100 per ton, but the current price of about $735 is still too high for the world's poor. Worse, the price is now once again on an upward trajectory: notwithstanding the decline of the last several months, world prices are more than double those prevailing one year ago and are up substantially over the mid-August low of $675.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) have teamed up with Democratic colleagues Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to introduce new legislation that would reform US international food aid to deliver more help to more people in crisis, faster.
As donors gather next week in Rome to pledge funds to the International Fund for Agriculture Development , they may be wondering where the United States is. Given the generally high marks this independent fund earns for development effectiveness, the uncertainty around a US pledge is troubling. In this “America First” moment, it’s worth asking when it comes to IFAD, what’s in it for the United States and what will be lost if the United States drops out?
One of the mysteries of development economics is why more people in subsistence agriculture don't migrate to cities where incomes are much, much higher. New data suggests one answer: when they move, their incomes may not go up as much as we thought.
Members of the World Trade Organization will be meeting next week in Buenos Aires to discuss the future of agricultural and other trade policies that could have important implications for food security and jobs in developing countries (eventually). And members of the US House and Senate agricultural committees will be meeting through next year to craft a new five-year farm bill that will help shape global markets and determine how much and how quickly US food aid can be delivered to people in desperate need around the world.