Food Reserves are an important but neglected tool in addressing for food crises. Up to the successive food price spikes since 2007-08, food reserves were seen as inappropriate, ineffective and costly compared to free(er) trade mechanisms. Tighter markets and high levels of food price volatility in international markets these last years, and the increased risks of food availability for food importing developing countries, have renewed the interest and the debates on food reserves.
Food price volatility has been extensively discussed since 2011 at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and at the yearly FAO ministerial conferences on food commodity prices in 2012 and 2013. While national governments, village councils and some farmers’ organizations in a number of developing countries have re-established systems for food storage, sometimes on a very local level and sometimes as part of national and even regional food security policies, the international debate around food reserves remains arduous.
At the 37th CFS session on food price volatility, despite the recommendations from the HLPE report on food price volatility, only three mentions of reserves made it into the final outcome of the CFS discussion on food price volatility.
- Request relevant international organizations, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, to further assess the constraints and effectiveness of local, national and regional food reserves;
- Endorse efforts requested by the G20 for WFP and other international organizations and partners (such as the Economic Community of West African States – ECOWAS) and West African countries, to support the development of a pilot project in West Africa, for a targeted regional emergency humanitarian food reserve, consistent with Annex 2 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture;
- Request that the international organizations, in consultation with other relevant stakeholders, develop a framework for a draft voluntary code of conduct for emergency humanitarian food reserves management, for further consideration by CFS; (CFS 2011)
The first mention is in the section that addresses the prevention of excessive price volatility; the last two are in the section that addresses how to mitigate the effects of excessive volatility when they occur.
Unfortunately little progress has been made except on the establishment of a regional food reserve policy in West Africa. The two other recommendations still need to be implemented.