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food crisis

"No Food, No Peace"

José Cuesta's picture


There’s been a lot of talk about food riots in the wake of the international food price hikes in 2007. Given the deaths and injuries caused by many of these episodes, this attention is fully justified. It is quite likely that we will experience more food riots in the foreseeable future—that is, if the world continues to have high and volatile food prices. We cannot expect food riots to disappear in a world in which unpredictable weather is on the rise; panic trade interventions are a relatively easy option for troubled governments under pressure; and food-related humanitarian disasters continue to occur.

In today’s world, food price shocks have repeatedly led to spontaneous—typically urban—sociopolitical instability. Yet, not all violent episodes are spontaneous: for example, long-term and growing competition over land and water are also known to cause unrest. If we add poverty and rampant disparities, preexisting grievances, and lack of adequate social safety nets, we end up with a mix that closely links food insecurity and conflict. The list of these types of violent episodes is certainly long: you can find examples in countries such as Argentina, Cameroon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Tunisia showcased in May’s Food Price Watch.

Agricultural FDI: Risky Business?

Khalid Alsuhaibani's picture

Al-Arabiya reported a few weeks ago that the political crisis in Ukraine and Russia is threatening the availability of food in Egypt and Jordan. Food prices becoming hostage to political crises is certainly not a new phenomenon: food plays an important role in the stability of societies through its availability, affordability, and quality. We learned this lesson from the 1789 French Revolution and more recently, many commentators link soaring food prices in 2010 with the events leading up to the ‘Arab Spring.’ The latter is not surprising when Arab countries import 56% of their cereal consumption, and some Arab countries import 100% of their wheat consumption. These recent market dynamics have led many countries to revisit their food security strategies with an eye to securing food supply.

There is a vigorous debate over the reasons pertaining to the food price increases in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Many highlight the effects of seasonal, short and medium term factors such as weather changes and biofuel-related crop conversions as well as long term factors such as population growth, income growth, and climate change. These price increases in food have enormous effects on people, for example, the 2008 food crisis pushed 105 million people into poverty.
 

Is the World Turning a Corner on High Food Prices?

Donna Barne's picture

 © Curt Carnemark / World Bank
If you Google the latest headlines, you will see plenty about the high price of food. Globally, however, average prices for major food commodities actually are 11% lower than a year ago, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s quarterly Food Price Watch. Does this mean the world is out of the danger zone on high food prices? Economist José Cuesta sheds light on the issue.

Food prices have been falling globally since August 2012. Have we turned the corner on the food crisis?

It’s true we’ve seen prices declining in a sustained way, but we’re still only 18% away from that historic peak in 2012. The reasons prices increased in the first place – such as growing demand for food and weather concerns – are still issues, and probably will be in the future.I don’t think that we have turned any corner. Prices seem to be less volatile, and that’s good news. But that doesn’t mean the level of prices hasn’t continued to be high; they are still high.

Did Trade Policy Responses to Food Price Spikes Reduce Poverty?

Will Martin's picture

Food prices in international markets have spiked three times in the past five years: in mid-2008, early 2011 and mid-2012 (Figure 1). The first of those spikes – when rice prices more than doubled – prompted urban riots in dozens of developing countries. It may have contributed even to the unrest that led to the Arab Spring. The most common government response was to alter trade restrictions so as to insulate the domestic market from the international price rise. And the most common justification for that action (tighter export restrictions or lower import barriers on food staples) was that it would  reduce the number of people who would fall into poverty. Not only are food prices politically sensitive, but many poor people are vulnerable to higher food prices, because the poorest people spend a large fraction of their incomes on food.

Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity

How Africa Can Transform Land Tenure, Revolutionize Agriculture, and End Poverty


The greatest development challenge facing Sub-Saharan Africa today is lifting 400 million of its people out of extreme poverty. The continent has abundant land and mineral resources to meet the challenge, but only if land governance can be improved.  A new study, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, offers a ten-point program to improve land governance by accelerating policy reforms and boosting investments at a cost of US $4.5 billion over 10 years.

The Time to End Poverty Is Now

Joachim von Amsberg's picture



If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
 
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
 
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.

What’s getting in the way of Latin America becoming a food superpower?

John Nash's picture



The United Nations estimates that with the population reaching 9 billion by 2050, global food demand will double, with much of that growth in developing countries. 
 
While the gloom-and-doom predictions of Malthus and a long line of neo-Malthusians have failed to materialize, still, one does have to wonder how all those hungry mouths are going to be fed.
 
What will it take to ensure that the recent food crises do not become permanent features of the world of the future?  While countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are quite heterogeneous in their production potential, overall they are well equipped to contribute to meeting this challenge.

High Food Prices and the Global Epidemic of Obesity

José Cuesta's picture

Available in Español, Français, عربي

Today, we know that being overweight or obese are major risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and premature death. We are constantly reminded that personal behaviors, influenced by culture and lifestyle, and our metabolic development contribute to being overweight or obese. In the March 2013 Food Price Watch, we wonder how another factor could potentially influence the world’s obesity epidemic: high food prices.

But first, let’s run a quick quiz. Many of us watch our weight routinely and may even have figured out our Body Mass Index—the ratio of body weight in kilograms by the square of body height in meters—to determine whether or not we are overweight. Yet there are some stunning facts about being overweight that you may not know.

Can you answer the questions about being overweight or obese below?  

Questions about being overweight or obese

Food Prices Are Soaring: 5 Questions for Economist José Cuesta

Karin Rives's picture

Read this post in Español, Français, 中文, عربي

Rice grains in bowl. Photo: Arne Hoel | The World Bank

Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank

The numbers are jarring: Global prices for key food staples such as corn and soybean were at an all-time high in July 2012, with corn rising 25 percent and soybeans 17 percent in a single month.

Globally, food prices jumped 7 percent between April and July. In some countries, people now pay more than twice as much for sorghum [1] as they did a year earlier, the latest issue of the World Bank’s Food Price Watch shows.

This is expected to hit certain regions with high food imports, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, especially hard.

We’re looking at a significant price shock, but does that mean we’re headed for a food crisis similar to the one we experienced in 2008? World Bank economist José Cuesta, the author of the quarterly Food Price Watch report, gives his perspective on the situation.

Longreads: The Way Out of the Food Crisis, Extreme Heat and Global Warming, London 2012 Bridges Divide, Combating Ebola

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

 

Food crisis warnings are getting louder, with many urging action to head off a repeat of 2007-08’s soaring prices and shortages. The Hindu lists driving forces behind food crises and “corrective steps” in “The Looming Global Crisis and the Way Out.” The story suggests a food crisis is no longer a “freakish phenomenon” in the same way extreme weather is no longer disconnected from global warming. Hot, very hot, and extremely hot summer weather has become more common since 1951, according to research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA includes a visualization of temperature changes through the decades in “Research Links Extreme Summer Heat Events to Global Warming.” The just-wrapped London Olympics that dominated the Twittersphere for two weeks wasn’t a mere sporting event, argues The Guardian in “Briefly But Gloriously, London 2012 Bridged the Divide.” The Games at times demonstrated the power to “transcend negative stereotypes and transform perceptions” of developing countries. With concern over an Ebola Virus outbreak easing in Uganda, Development Policy Blog interviews epidemiologist Dr. Kamalini Lokuge, a veteran of responses of Ebola outbreaks, before her trip to the stricken area.


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