Without such cooperation, we will continue to see recurring global food crises, including those coming from export bans.
Behaviour must also change, at all levels. Psychological fear of food shortages, real or perceived, tends to trigger countries and households to shift from “just in time” to “just in case” mode, leading to self-fulfilling prophesies, as hoarding by countries and households amplify panic and engender full-blown crises.
But with cooperation, countries and households can resist hoarding or banning exports when there is a hiccup in food supply or prices. Confidence in international trade on food can ride out the storm. Such efforts at global cooperation might look like pie in the sky, especially when multilateralism seems to be on the decline.
However, this global effort might be worth a try, considering how India’s implementation of a national food buffer stock and public food distribution system seemed impossible within its sprawling and noisy democracy – until it happened.
INDONESIA MUST WALK THE TALK
To exercise credible leadership, Indonesia must walk the talk and be consistent. On the one hand, President Jokowi portrayed himself under the bright media spotlight as a humanitarian and peace-keeping president, trying to save the world from the global food crisis.
On the other hand, his administration’s recent blanket export ban, albeit brief, on palm oil worsened the global food crisis. A prolonged ban could have had dire global inflation and food security ramifications, since Indonesia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil.
The recent reshuffle of his trade minister after the uncontrollable rising cooking oil price saga also does not convince analysts that Indonesia will prioritise sound international trade stances over populist policies.