Global food-price shocks and poor people – an overview
Hunger has been on the rise since the mid-1990s, due to a variety of factors, including a lack of policy attention and a sense of complacency generated by long-term real declines in food prices. Food prices rose sharply after 2006, and there is considerable controversy over the reasons why. Analysts have pointed to a number of factors as possible causes, including rising fuel prices, diversion of food crops into biofuels, speculation, increased meat consumption in Asia, climate change, and environmental degradation, among others. There is disagreement about both the role played by some of these factors in driving up prices, and also the weight to assign to each specific factor. Discussion of the consequences of higher food prices has been based primarily on modelling; this special issue of Development in Practice presents some new modelling results, as well as results from field research on the actual consequences for poor farmers and consumers in developing, transition, and developed countries. The price increases led to sometimes violent protests in scores of countries in 2007–08, thereby putting hunger back on the front policy burner. Food prices spiked in mid-2008 and remained well above the levels of the early 2000s, globally, throughout 2009–10. By December 2010, prices had risen again, surpassing the peaks of 2008. There is consensus concerning policy prescriptions on what to do about higher food prices; this is embodied, for example, in the UN's Comprehensive Framework for Action of 2008. However, the authors of a number of the articles in this special issue find limitations to that consensus and offer additional policy prescriptions.