Food insecurity and Global Grain Trade / by Simmon Li

A lot of discussion on food reserves/international trade policy -> domestic policy takes for granted the prevailing structure of international agricultural markets and the underlying drivers of that market. First, it must be said that there are large private actors on the international stage that have a heavily vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It is said that the large food industrial food processors combine to capture at least 75% of global grain trade.

Second, much of the talk about resilience seems to focus on the local conditions of agricultural production. That is to say, the focus remains on small-holder agricultural productivity and local market conditions. It refocuses the debate onto the local, which has both its advantages and disadvantages. In the first case, it puts the focus on where the actual agricultural and nutritional challenges lie. With a focus on small-holder agriculture, policy can better address the day-to-day challenges that people face with nutrition and food security. On the hand, the focus on the site of food insecurity fails to take into account the situatedness of such small-holder farmers in a globalized grain and foodstuffs trade and its implications on the kinds of policy tools that are "political acceptable" to the international community. Some progress has been made in this regard, but there exists a fundamental disconnect between the local and the global in this regard. The system of global grain trade is aided and abetted by the WTO and other policy structures envisioned in a political and economic context that does not reflect the world as it stands today. While it is important to keep an eye trained on the small-holder agriculturalist, it raises important considerations as to the direction that current global trade policy takes and whether or not that is 1) best practice and 2) feasible in light of addressing the very real challenges of nutrition and capacity deficits in still developing countries.