By Philippa Moore, Gerry Nedelcheva and Iride Ceccacci
Since the 2007-08 food crisis, governments, IFIs and the private sector have continued to work together to achieve greater food security. “Our role, through the Private Sector for Food Security Initiative, has been to give a greater voice to private sector needs and to enable agribusiness companies to fully participate in setting priorities for global food security,” said the EBRD’s Agribusiness Director Gilles Mettetal. “Beyond strong investments, through public-private policy dialogue we harvested good results in 2013.”
Food security remains high on the priority list of global leaders, as the 2014 World Economic Forum meeting at Davos in January demonstrated. “Beyond increasing the quantity of food produced, it is clear that more emphasis should be given to improving quality and cross-linking our policy work to other agriculture-related sectors,” commented Piroska M. Nagy, the EBRD’s Director for Country Strategy and Policy Initiatives.
By combining policy dialogue and investments the Private Sector for Food Security Initiative achieved tangible results, now showcased in their just released Annual Report. “The Annual Report clearly shows that sector-specific policy dialogue is instrumental in improving the business environment and bringing about transition impact in the agribusiness sector,” said Iride Ceccacci, Food Security Economist.
In facilitating investments in agribusiness, the Initiative enjoys widespread support from both the private and the public sectors. “From Kiev to Cairo and from Belgrade to Tbilisi, there is a growing appetite for this type of EBRD engagement. The Private Sector for Food Security Initiative is clearly a strategic initiative for the EBRD,” said EBRD Director of Communications Jonathan Charles.
As detailed in the Annual Report, great progress has been made over the past year on the Initiative’s main priorities:
Responding to price volatility through improved access to finance
To tackle under-investment in primary agriculture, in 2013 the EBRD continued to support collateralisation options for pre- and post-harvest financing. The EBRD facilitated the drafting of key legislation on and raises awareness of grain warehouse receipts and crop receipts systems in Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Improving policy transparency through public-private platforms
With Ukraine’s growing role in regional and global food security, the EBRD’s engagement in the grain sector through policy dialogue and investments has improved the business climate in agribusiness. In 2013 the Ukraine Grain Working Group, initially led by the EBRD and now under the leadership of the Ukraine Grain Association, has become a vital mechanism for public-private policy dialogue in the grain sector.
Following this success story, in 2013 Ukraine’s dairy industry and the government requested that the EBRD lead a similar working group in the dairy sector. Most revealing of the merits of policy dialogue in Ukraine is that similar initiatives are now being rolled out in the grain sector in Egypt and in the meat and dairy sectors in Serbia.
Linking exporters and importers to enhance global supply and demand chains
At the request of the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture, in 2013 the EBRD and FAO led a food security workshop in Cairo with private sector companies and government representatives. The workshop linked exporters from the EBRD’s traditional region of operations with importers from the SEMED countries to improve the efficiency of the Egyptian grain import value chain, in light of Egypt’s reliance on imports.
Linking water and food production for resource efficiency and sustainability
In 2013 the EBRD started to implement a joint work programme with FAO on Water along the Food Chain with the objective of identifying the role the private sector can play in investing in water efficient technologies. Activities are currently focused on analysing water usage along food chains in four pilot countries - Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkey and Ukraine. Results of the Jordan value chain analysis will be presented in Amman in March 2014.
Improving IFI coordination
In 2013 the EBRD continued to co-chair, with the ADB, the MDB Working Group on Food and Water Security, which informs the G20 process. The MDBs’ Action Plan 2011-2013 was successfully delivered and acknowledged in the Saint Petersburg Accountability Report of the G20. The EastAgri and MedAgri Networks, launched and supported by the EBRD and FAO, have facilitated and stepped up efforts towards improved IFI coordination and information-sharing throughout 2013. The EBRD also participated in the Aspen Institute’s Global Strategy Food Security Group alongside leading global private sector companies.
Capacity building for agribusinesses
In 2013 capacity building for companies - under the umbrella of the Private Sector for Food Security Initiative -launched in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan (SEMED countries). In the last year these projects have been pivotal in leveraging further agribusiness investments in this region of operations. Modelled on this success in the SEMED region, a capacity building programme in the Early Transition Countries was launched by the EBRD in 2013.
Growing a better future
The report also details how the Initiative will prioritise the production of safer and “better food” for improved nutrition. In this context, in January 2014 the EBRD, in collaboration with FAO, organised a forum on food safety and quality in Georgia. Additionally, policy dialogue in the Serbian meat and dairy sectors is planned to start in 2014 through two working groups led by the EBRD. The Initiative will also focus on reducing food production losses, especially in the SEMED countries, and place more emphasis on the financing needs of SMEs and their role in contributing to regional growth. Large and small agribusiness companies are key players in addressing the growing demand for food and also the main vehicle to improve food standards.