World Leaders Brainstorm On How To Manage Grain Supply

Leaders from around the world met in St. Petersburg at the weekend to discuss ways to manage the supply of staple grains that feed the planet. It's a critical question for WFP, the world's largest distributor of food assistance. The outcome? Read Five Takeaways From St Petersburg

ROME -- The world produces millions of metric tons of wheat, maize, rice and sorghum.  But those grains are not always where they need to be when markets get tight as they did during last year’s high-food-price crisis.  When people can’t get access to food – the fundamental essence of life –  we see things we don’t like – hoarding, food riots, export restrictions and a general hunkering down that further restricts access to food. 

So on Saturday and Sunday, under the leadership of President Medvedev, the World Grain Forum brought together top officials from governments, international organizations and the private sector to brainstorm these issues and table new proposals on questions such as:

  • How can we better manage world grain stocks?
  • Would governments be best placed to coordinate regional reserves or others?
  • What about physical reserves (real grain stored in silos) versus virtual reserves (funds set aside to purchase grains)?
  • Would it make sense for governments to contribute their grain to regional reserves?

The World Food Programme, as the world's largest humanitarian organization and largest buyer and distributor of food assistance, sent a high level delegation led by Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu to contribute to the dialogue. 

Nearly a billion hungry people

In addition to the specifics on grain, the World Grain Forum served to highlight the plight of the world's nearly one billion hungry people and advance innovative solutions to strengthen food production, access and utilization. 

The food crisis that began last year is far from over. While international food prices have moderated, local costs remain high in many parts of Africa and Asia. Coupled with spreading unemployment and falling incomes in the widening wake of the global financial crisis, rising or continued high prices are increasingly putting food out of reach of many. 

Affordable, nutritious food

Deputy Executive Director Sisulu and her delegation shared with key stakeholders the latest on sustainable and effective partnerships and programs that WFP is already deploying to successfully boost production among smallholder farmers in areas of chronic food insecurity, to deliver access to affordable, nutritious food to school children and families, and to build and strengthen the kinds of basic national social safety nets that have long existed to help hungry people across the developed world. 

Chris Moore, WFP’s Senior Adviser on Public Policy, was in St. Petersburg and report for us on developments at the forum.  Let us know what you think.