Robynne has extensive experience in the agriculture and food sector, working throughout the value chain – from basic inputs to farmers in the field to the grocery store shelf. She works internationally in the sector, including speaking at the United Nations on agriculture and food issues, and representing the International Agri-Food Network at the UN.Throughout her career she has worked with farm organisations like the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi and the Himalayan Farmers Association, as well as global groups, to further the voice of agriculture in the food debate. She has also worked with Fortune 500 companies growing worldwide businesses to assist them with issues management and strategy decisions.

G20

Agriculture is in desperate need of capital investment, especially to feed 10 billion people in 2050. After 30 years of underinvestment through removal of agricultural development funding and poor prices, there are now signals for farmers to do more.

As the G20 convenes, policy on food price volatility is top of mind. Price caps will fundamentally destroy any investment in agriculture – including by farmers themselves.

People should not be left to go hungry. Food security should be dealt with in social safety net structures that ensure the poorest get supplemental income to buy food. Sending the wrong signal to agriculture right now, could be counter productive.

G20

The first ever G20 agriculture ministers meeting will be held June 22-23. During this meeting and the G20 Leaders meeting in May, food price volatility will be top of mind. Hosted by the French government, there is concerns about excessive price volatility and speculation. Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Agriculture, was cited in a UN press release noting: “Demand (for food) would continue to rise exponentially, while production would only increase mathematically, owing to climate change, the conversion of lands to other uses and other factors. In 2010, 40 million people had suffered from hunger and it would only get worse, he said, noting that increasing production was just barely keeping up with rising demand. One climatic event, such as flooding in the Russian Federation, could cause prices to skyrocket, he said, warning that hunger, food riots and instability could be the result.”

He proposed an unprecedented exchange of information on grain stocks, pointing out that among the G-20 countries there was currently no cooperative mechanism on agriculture. The French presidency wanted one established to help limit export restrictions, he said, adding that it also wished to see financial markets dealing with agricultural commodities regulated in a manner that did not go against the market, but rather improved it. “It is unacceptable that there should be speculation on hunger in the world,” he said.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Health is on everyone’s mind. And leaders in the health sector are working to make it a major social issue, not just a medical one. Recently the associations for cancer, heart and diabetes have banded together to focus on chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCD). Discussions on topics like diet and nutrition will be growing even louder in the months ahead, as there is a concerted effort to elevate the importance of lifestyle choices, including greater consumption of fruit and vegetables. Intense scrutiny on fat, salt, and food processing is likely.

They have been very effective at moving the agenda forward in national food discussions and at the international level. Already a World Economic Forum survey stated “NCD’s are a threat to global well being.” Years of effort of their part are culminating in increased profile on national agendas in many developed countries including the UK, US, and Canada. Additionally, a series of international events will further the attention. For instance, it will be the focal point for the Opening the UN General Assembly in September. It is a great time to think about raising your voice on health issues and showing what you can offer to improved diets and nutrition.