By Bryan Dorval
Rising food prices represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor, who often have to spend up to 70 percent of their income on food. According to the World Bank , in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 44 million people into extreme poverty and recent price hikes could lead to an additional 30 million more.
There are many causes to the latest spike in the cost of food, according to the World Bank’s Food Price Watch including changing weather patterns, the increase in the demand from emerging economies, and the growing production of agrofuels.
The food crisis is also intimately linked to the current economic crisis—food and agriculture have become heavily dependent on oil. With the markets in flux and ongoing conflicts in regions where petroleum is widely produced, oil has steadily increased in price. The rise in the price of oil has had a direct impact on the rise in the cost of basic foods. According to The World Bank, when the price of oil is over fifty dollars a barrel, a 1 percent price increase in oil causes a 0.9 percent increase in the price of corn.
With poor families in developing countries spending large percentage of their incomes on food, the smallest rise in food prices can be a huge burden to bear. The food price index, the measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, showed a small dip of 1 percent in September, but it is still 19 percent above its September 2010 levels.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a guide for policy-makers which stresses that a mix of policy and programmatic actions are necessary to stabilize food prices and establish trust between private sector traders and governments. Policies that provide investment in developing countries and improve seed varieties at the community level have proven to be effective. In order to stabilize food prices programs need to be adapted to local conditions and agreed upon by key stakeholders in each country.
Have you heard of any organizations efforts trying to stabilize food prices?
- And Now for Something Completely Different; Big Powers Missing in Action on Food Price Crisis but New Leaders Emerge
- Mapping world food price volatility
- Beyond the Price of Food: Putting Food Security Into Farmers Hands
- IFPRI Millions Fed Technical Compendium
- Interactive Map Highlights Country Vulnerability to Food Price Hikes
- New International Commission to Respond to the Current Food Price Crisis
- Where Cultivation Meets Conflict: Rebuilding Liberian Farms in the Aftermath of War
- Creating Food Sovereignty for Small-Scale Farmers