International trade has long been recognized as an important factor that can help to contribute to achieving SDG2. Strengthening the existing regulatory framework for agricultural trade is essential to ensuring the availability of and access to nutritious foods now and in the future. This begins with multilateral trade rules that provide a framework for predictability, transparency and cooperation, in order to limit distortions, minimize unnecessary barriers to trade and facilitate trade. Complying with international TBT and SPS standards are also important for ensuring food safety, quality and consumer awareness. Such a regulatory framework includes building sound traceability systems to protect plant, animal and human health, as well as to facilitate trade. Reducing tariffs and border protection can increase the availability of a diversified diet for consumers, while disciplining domestic subsidies can facilitate production in a more sustainable manner. However, while the current multilateral trade rules provide significant policy space to promote sustainable agricultural production and trade, international trade currently faces disruption with punitive trade barriers and nonchalance to the value of a rules-based multilateral trading system. Minimizing unnecessary trade barriers and reducing production and trade distortive measures, and further facilitating trade are essential to improving food and nutrition security. Achieving this objective will require a collective effort at the multilateral level as well as upgrading national capacities to deal effectively with trade integration, especially in areas like SPS and TBT. Progress on the multilateral front to reduce subsidies that distort production and trade, tariffs and non-tariff barriers has proven difficult and the prospects for faster future liberalization remain uncertain. There are, however, new opportunities for producing sufficient and nutritious food in a sustainable manner and facilitating trade within the current framework of global trade rules. Technology holds the key to realizing this potential. Digital technologies have demonstrated their capability in facilitating sustainable production and improving efficiency and transparency contributing to increased trade, including enhancing food safety, financing trade, customs inspections, compliance with trade rules and consumer awareness.
The aim is to discuss the importance of international agricultural trade and an integrated trade system for global food security in order to archive major relevance in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations, in particular SDG 2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture – and SDG 12 – ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. The focus of this panel will be on agri-food trade with African countries, the importance trade has for agricultural development and the role of food security within African countries.
Agri-food trade is increasing for most African countries, driven by population growth, a changing consumption pattern and limited growth in national and regional production. In most Sub-Saharan countries, because of insufficient infrastructure it is often cheaper to import from global markets than to import from the remote hinterland or from neighbouring countries. Still 31 African countries continue to need external food aid (FAO 2019). Most forecasts now estimate that crop yields will decline in much of Africa and the developing world as a result of the effects of climate change. The hardest hit areas coincide with the regions that are also expected to produce the highest population growth rates in the coming decades. In this context, it is particularly important to explore the future sustainability and resilience of agri-food production in Africa.
The food trade balance has worsened in most African Countries over the last decades (FAO) and in particular basic food commodities such as cereals, dairy products, edible oils and fats as well as meat products are increasingly imported. With the African Union Malabo Declaration from June 2014, African countries committed to triple intra African trade by 2025. The African Free Trade Area is an ambitious project of the African Union. If achieved, this may help to improve food security and contribute to the achievement of SDG 2 in Africa. Panel discussions points are: