The doctrine that food prices should be kept as low as possible to end hunger is wrong, says former FAO agricultural economist Andrew MacMillan.
Most governments prefer to keep food prices “affordable” for their people. Many subsidise their farmers’ incomes to let them make a decent living while they sell their output for little more than it costs them to produce it. Countries justify these measures and relatively low taxes on foods as means of preventing poor people from suffering from hunger.
Continue reading Raising food prices to end hunger
What causes sudden increases in commodity costs, and can we stop them in the future? Theresa Meacham introduces a Global Food Security publication.
‘Banks making millions out of starving millions through food speculation’ was the headline in the Metro following the food price spikes back in 2012. Prior to this, the Telegraph was also asking ‘Should food be a protected commodity?’ following the 2007/08 price spike and 2010 price rises.
But how much can we blame bankers (or food commodity traders) for causing the food price spikes? And will there be more food price spikes in the future?
Continue reading An Insight on food price spikes
The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (Relu) has been running since 2004. Laura Meagher reports on its value and progress.
Rural areas in the UK, and elsewhere, are experiencing considerable change at a pace that makes many feel uneasy about the future. The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (Relu) uses a combination of natural and social sciences to advance understanding of the challenges they face.
Continue reading Measuring the impact of food security research
Big chains are an easy target, and rightly so in many instances. But food’s journey from supplier to consumer is more complex – and evolving – says Andrew Fearne.
Picture this: you are the supplier of a highly perishable and seasonable food commodity to a major supermarket. You are a significant player in your sector, say summer fruits, but the supplier of only one of 30,000 product lines for the supermarket.
Your supply programmes are generally agreed annually with your customer, the supermarket, with prices and promotions contingent upon availability and demand.
Continue reading Supermarket buyers – a breed apart or an endangered species?
Truly sustainable agricultural systems require scientific innovation based around new social and economic principles, says Geoff Tansey.
The fundamental reasons why people face food insecurity are not mainly the scientific and technical.
As a Food Ethics Council Food and Fairness inquiry concluded, the problems we face cannot simply be solved from within a food system perspective but are rooted in institutional features of how the world works today. Within existing frameworks, technological innovation alone will not deliver the kind of change needed to achieve a well-fed world, sustainably and equitably.
Continue reading Food and the economy of fairness
Developing agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa involves tackling political problems as well as the scientific ones, says Sara Delaney.
Bold orange signs decorated the brightly lit rooms, each proclaiming ‘New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture’ and offering a taste of keywords to come: ‘finance, migration, accessing markets, youth…’, serving as an inspiring backdrop for the two day conference held at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in Rome, on January 24-25.
Continue reading Elephants in the conference room
Gambling on food prices was a driver of the 2007-08 crisis and it’s time to take action against this practice, says Julian Oram.
I don’t consider myself to be an especially intuitive person and I’m pretty sure I’d make a lousy detective. But a few years ago something happened on an international scale which roused my suspicions: the price of food was rising fast.
Between January 2007 and June 2008, maize prices shot up by 74%, wheat prices by 124%, and rice by 224%. In Britain, this led to grumblings about the rising cost of a loaf of bread. But across Asia, Africa and Latin America, riots erupted as the price of basic foodstuffs became unaffordable to poor households and millions went hungry. It was, without doubt, a major world crisis.
Continue reading The case of the great food bubble