Demand, Supply, Sustainability and Security
Edited by Raghbendra Jha, Raghav Gaiha and Anil B. Deolalikar
Chapter 14: Enhancing food security: agricultural productivity, international trade and poverty reduction
Food security is back on the global agenda. Over the three decades following the mid-1970s, falling international food prices signaled abundant global food supplies, resulting in widespread overconfidence about the prospects for continued reductions in global hunger. But dramatic international food price increases in 2007 and 2008 and subsequent price surges in 2010 and 2011 ended this complacency. Between 2006 and 2008 the international price of rice tripled, with wheat and maize not far behind. Between them, these three cereals are the staple foods of the majority of the world's poorest people and expenditure on them accounts for a large proportion of household budgets. Among the poor, net purchasers of these commodities typically outnumber net sellers, such as small farmers. Poor people are consequently those most vulnerable to an increase in food prices. For those poor people who are net purchasers of food and for the governments and other institutions concerned with their welfare, highly volatile food prices are deeply worrying. Figure 14.1 shows long-term data on the international prices of rice, wheat and maize, relative to manufactured commodities, covering more than a century. Three features of the behaviour of these prices are revealed by the data: 1. all three real prices have declined markedly over the long term; 2. all three have been highly volatile; and 3. all three increased significantly in recent years.
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