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Agriculture and Rural Development

You Asked: What's Going on With Food Prices?

Karin Rives's picture

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Photo: © Michael Morris / World Bank

When the World Bank’s Food Price Watch reported last week that severe drought pushed prices of staples such as maize and soybean to an all-time high this summer, people everywhere took notice. What will it mean for the poor in regions most affected by rising prices? What will it mean for us? 

Economist José Cuesta, who authors the Bank’s quarterly Food Price Watch, asked readers of our last blog entry to submit their own questions about food prices. Here are his answers to a few of them.

Putting Nature at the Heart of Economic Decisions

Rachel Kyte's picture

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To put nature at the heart of economic decisions, government, the private sector & the conservation community must reach across the aisle.

Look around the world, and you’ll see abundant reasons to worry about nature and its capacity to sustain us. Over 60 percent of ecosystems are in worse shape now than 50 years ago; 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted; half of all wetlands have been destroyed since 1900; and climate change is changing everything.

But at the same time, if you look carefully, there are reasons for cautious optimism.

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.

Re-thinking irrigation to fight hunger

Jonathan Kamkwalala's picture

Photo: Arne Hoel, The World BankFood prices are spiking globally and in Africa one way to ensure food security is to rethink the role of irrigation in agriculture and food production.

Achieving food security in Africa is a critical issue, even as efforts are stymied by drought, floods, pestilence and more. To these natural disasters, we can add the challenge of a changing climate that is predicted to hit Africa disproportionately hard.  

So, what can we do? World Water Week kicked off on Sunday in Stockholm and how water impacts food security will be the focus.

In the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that a proven way to expand agriculture and food production in Africa is to focus on scaling up irrigation programs, bringing water to parched lands, and strengthening the hands of farmers who produce food against climatic odds.

Welcome to World Water Week 2012

Jaehyang So's picture

Thousands of water development practitioners have begun to descend upon Stockholm for World Water Week, the annual knowledge-sharing event hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute. It was raining earlier today in Sweden’s capital. But some parts of the world have suffered through unprecedented high temperatures and drought. The drought in the US can be seen from space, as described in this Wired magazine article. This drought has led to damages to, and drops in, yields of crops of maize and soybeans, for which the US is the largest exporter in the world. It has also meant higher food prices.

Rising food prices: time to put your money where your mouth is?

Marie Chantal Messier's picture

Also available in Portuguese, Español

There is no arguing that high food prices are taking a heavy toll on Latin America’s families, business and governments, fueling ripple effects on people’s budgets and the economy as a whole.

But behind the cold hard numbers of price increases, shrinking budgets and inflationary fears, the simple truth is high food prices can kill –or severely impair- people, especially kids from underprivileged environments.

Latin America: should global food price fever give us the shivers?

Willem Janssen's picture

Also available in Portuguese, Español

As food prices creep up again for the third time in five years, concerns about global food security are also on the rise. Right off the bat, three questions come to mind:  Why this is happening? How does this affect Latin America and the Caribbean? What should we do about it?

Prospects Weekly: Adverse weather conditions are leading to a surge in food commodity prices

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
Adverse weather conditions are pushing some food commodity prices to levels not seen since the 2007/08 price spike. Nonetheless, weakening global demand has pushed down headline inflation in most regions.

Longreads: Hope Withers With Harvest, More Fish More Money, Aging Workforces Drive Jobs to SE Asia, Mapping Toilets in Mumbai

Donna Barne's picture

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

 

Drought, food prices, and global warming remain hot topics as crops in the United States wilt under the hot sun, raising fears of another food price crisis. The Guardian chronicles the corn belt’s adverse conditions – and the implications for the rest of the world in “America’s Corn Farmers High and Dry as Hope Withers With Their Harvest.” (For a view from South Africa on the drought’s ripple effect, see Independent Online’s “US drought puts pressure on SA food prices”.) On another food supply issue, Co.exist highlights a new study on the costs and benefits of rebuilding global fisheries in “More Fish Means More Money.” The bottom line: rebuilding fisheries would begin to pay off in 12 years, the study says. The New York Times blog India Ink relates an effort to address another huge challenge—access to sanitation—in “Mapping Toilets in a Mumbai Slum Yields Unexpected Results.” Bloomberg looks at the coming demographic dividend in Southeast Asia, where young workers are expected to gain jobs as workforces age in Japan, Korea and China.

Land Law Advocacy for Farmers in China

XiaoHui Wu's picture

Photo Credit: Landesa.orgEven though Chinese law offers farmers protection from land grabs, readjustments, and other confiscations, news reports paint a different picture of embattled farmers defending their land from local officials working in concert with developers. In fact, every year 3-4 million farmers lose their property to land readjustments and other forms of compulsory forfeiture in China.

Many of these farmers do not know their legal rights. According to independent surveys, fewer than 30% of farmers have heard of China’s Property Law, the most important law governing properties, and land rights. As a result fewer than 10% of Chinese farmers ever appeal to administrative and judicial institutions when their land rights are violated.


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