July 1, 2020

Global effort to keep trade open during unprecedented times

The below was originally published on, and is intellectual property of, the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

As the world faces truly unprecedented times in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries and international organisations have been discussing ways to keep international agriculture trade open in order to support global food security.

The G20 Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) publishes monthly Market Monitor reports, and while they noted that the current global supply of food is adequate, they acknowledged that shocks created by COVID-19 were starting to take a toll on food markets.

Some countries are imposing restrictions of food exports to shore up domestic food supplies, which could risk market stability. Past analysis has shown that these restrictions come at the cost of food security in other countries, and harms domestic food producers through lower prices.

The G20 convened an Extraordinary Virtual Agriculture Ministers Meeting on 21 April 2020 which supported avoiding export bans and trade restrictions. Many members called for adhering to WTO rules, and that the WTO should be notified of any responses to COVID-19.

At the meeting, Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, highlighted some key measures Australia has put in place to respond to COVID−19, to ensure continuity of supply chains for domestic food security, and to give our trading partners confidence in our export capacity. He also called for international experts to work through the risks of wildlife wet markets.

Major international organisations are helping their member countries manage any changes to trade that are being put in place due to the pandemic, and to keep up to date with measures around the world.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are keeping registers of the trade-related measures countries are putting in place in response to COVID-19. Many of the policy responses to COVID-19 disruptions to global supply chains have been trade facilitating, and Australia is working with our trading partners to continue these trade facilitating measures post COVID-19.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is providing policy analysis and other tools for governments to assess COVID-19 impacts on food and agriculture, value chains and food security. The FAO has also published a dedicated COVID-19 platform which among other things, offers an overview of current policy decisions that Member Countries are adopting to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on food and agricultural systems.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) hosted a special virtual session of its Committee for Agriculture, to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture and food sectors. They have established a dedicated online platform to compile data, analysis and recommendations on the COVID-19 crisis, as well as to facilitate coordination, and contribute to necessary global action.

Head of bilateral trade in the Americas, Matt Worrell, said that Australia is advocating across these forums to maintain free trade and promote science-based standards to be used when trading in plant, animal and food products.

‘We will continue to support the WTO and key international organisations in analysing the impacts of COVID-19 on agricultural trade and production,’ Mr Worrell said.

‘I am encouraged by the work of these international organisations and countries around the world taking steps to ensure that supply chains remain open.

‘If this continues, international markets will function to support the movement of agricultural and agri-food products, and will play an instrumental role in avoiding food shortages and ensuring food security across the globe.’

Visit the department’s COVID-19 advice hub for more on Australia’s contribution to world efforts.

To read the full article please visit: Agricultural Trade Matters, July 2020


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