17 July 2023 | Press Release 03/2023
International cooperation at risk?! IAMO Forum discussed global challenges of agricultural trade and hunger eradication
The IAMO Forum on International Agricultural Trade, Geopolitics and Global Food Security took place in Halle (Saale) from 21 to 23 June 2023. The forum brought together distinguished representatives from research, civil society, agribusiness, and policy to discuss the current challenges of international agricultural trade in the context of hunger eradication. The topics ranged from international trade relations and food security to geopolitical risks and global cooperation. More than 170 guests from 24 countries participated in a total of 21 sessions.
International agricultural trade is key to improving global food security. It ensures better access to more diversified and nutritious food, especially in low-income countries, and acts as a safety net against food shortages caused by climate risks, crises, political tensions, and other shocks. Rising geopolitical tensions, such as the escalating rivalry between China and the United States, the ongoing war in Europe, as well as the growing demands for decoupling and national protectionism, have posed serious challenges to international (agricultural) trade system and global food supply.
Against this background, participants on the first day of the conference primarily discussed the current trend of anti-globalization sentiments in the global economy. Following a long period of reduced agricultural trade barriers, the global food economy faces growing isolation and self-sufficiency resulting from trade-restricting measures, such as sanctions and export restrictions, as IAMO Director Thomas Glauben pointed out in his opening speech. However, experts agree that a departure from the principles of the free market economy and a de-globalization of agricultural trade due to populism and protectionism pose a significant threat to global food security. Alexander Libman from the Free University of Berlin warned of a new “cold economic war” and highlighted the high societal costs and strain on natural resources associated with de-globalization. Tom Hertel from Purdue University in the USA emphasized that, in the face of climate change, market-oriented global agricultural trade plays an even more significant role in reducing supply risks. During a panel discussion, the newly established „Halle Academic Quartet” discussed the nexus of diplomacy, security policy and global cooperation with its guest Rudolf Adam (ex-vice president of the Federal Intelligence Service, Germany).
The second day of the forum focused on recent crises and the role of international trade in food security. Ekaterina Krivonos (FAO, Rome) emphasized that the global hunger is increasing, with various factors such as inequality in economic growth, COVID-19, climate change, and local conflicts contributing to it. Trade is gaining importance in the countries of the Global South. The main drivers of global agricultural trade remain population growth, per capita consumption, and limited production growth in the Global South. Additional presentations illustrated the current developments in trade policy in the Balkan region, China, and Ukraine. Jing Zhu (Nanjing Agricultural University, China) reported that China will diversify its imports more in the future to address geopolitical risks. Veronika Movchan (Institute for Economic Research, Ukraine) described how grain exports from Ukraine remain uncertain due to war-related consequences and unstable agreements for exports from Black Sea ports.
On the third day of the conference, guests of the moderated panel discussion talked about how global value chains and food security can be ensured during geopolitical tensions while also meeting sustainability goals. Cornelia Berns (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany) emphasized the role of functioning value chains for global food security and advocated for multinational cooperation. She stressed the importance of open and transparent agricultural markets. Per Brodersen (German Agribusiness Alliance) discussed the importance of transparency for consumers and emphasized the role of trade standards and open agri-food markets. Etel Solingen (University of California, USA) explained that domestic food production should not necessarily be a priority, but rather trust in international institutions should be strengthened through transparency. She considers that agri-food trade should not be targeted by economic sanctions. Sergiy Zorya (World Bank Group) also reaffirmed the importance of open trade for poverty reduction. When discussing trade and food security during geopolitical conflicts, geographical location and access to the sea were identified as crucial factors. Export bans are not an effective instrument when it comes to solving the problem of food insecurity. Lena Kuhn (Head of the International Research Group China, IAMO) added that countries like China still need a resilient and resource-efficient domestic food production system in addition to the open trade policy and public storage systems. She also highlighted the role of digitalization and education in rural areas.
IAMO Director Thomas Glauben has summarized toward the end of the forum: „The conference has shown that we need not less, but more cooperation, trade, and exchange at the international level if we do not want to leave a world of poverty, hunger, and conflicts to our children“.
The IAMO Forum 2023 was a significant platform for sharing expertise and discussing future challenges in agricultural trade. The outcomes of the discussions will contribute to developing solutions for sustainable and secure global food systems.
The conference was jointly organized by IAMO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the German Agribusiness Alliance, and the Leibniz Science Campus “Eastern Europe – Global Area” (EEGA).
The German Research Foundation (DFG), the Rentenbank, the state of Saxony-Anhalt, and the city of Halle provided financial support for the conference.
The Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) analyses economic, social and political processes of change in the agricultural and food sector, and in rural areas. The geographic focus covers the enlarging EU, transition regions of Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, as well as Central and Eastern Asia. IAMO works to enhance the understanding of institutional, structural and technological changes. Moreover, IAMO studies the resulting impacts on the agricultural and food sector as well as the living conditions of rural populations. The outcomes of our work are used to derive and analyse strategies and options for enterprises, agricultural markets and politics. Since its founding in 1994, IAMO has been part of the Leibniz Association, a German community of independent research institutes.
Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO)
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