Sunday, April 24, 2011

Food prices in 2010-11 and its impact on poverty

Global food prices have increased substantially since mid-2010, as have prices in many developing countries. In this study we assess the poverty impact of the price changes between June and December 2010 in twenty-eight low and middle income countries. This is done by gathering detailed information on individual households' food production and consumption levels for thirty-eight agricultural and food commodities to assess the impacts on household welfare. This study estimates that this sudden food price surge increased the number of poor people globally, but with considerably different impacts in different countries. The heterogeneity of these impacts is partly related to the wide variation in the transmission of global prices to local prices and partly to differences in households' patterns of production and consumption. On balance, the adverse welfare impact on net buyers outweighs the benefits to net sellers resulting in an increase in the number of poor and in the depth of poverty. We estimate that the average poverty change was 1.1 percentage points in low income countries and 0.7 percentage points in middle income countries with a net increase of 44 million people falling below the $1.25 per day extreme poverty line.

Full paper by Maros, Martin and Hassan (2011). They find that on an average poverty change was 1.1 percentage points in low income countries and 0.7 percentage points in middle income countries. The net increase in poverty was 44 million people (falling below the $1.25 per day extreme poverty line).

Meanwhile, Carnegie’s Shim and Vera explain the differences between the food price rise in 2010/11 and 2007/08. They argue:

Several of the factors behind today’s increase parallel those that drove the 2007/2008 food-price crisis—including export controls, biofuels production, high oil prices, and poor harvests. But the prices of cereals, particularly rice, have increased less than in 2008 and domestic prices in some of the world’s poorest countries have actually fallen amid better local harvests. The lower incidence of harmful policy responses, which amplified the crisis last time, likely helped as well.

Although these factors have lowered the surge’s impact, prices are likely to remain elevated and volatile for the next few years. Policy makers must heed the lessons of the past if they are to prevent more hunger now.