High Food Price Crisis

The food price spike of 2007-2008 pushed the total number of hungry people to over one billion—1/6th of the world's population. Since then, food prices have continued an upward trend, reaching an all-time peak in January 2011. In developing countries, these increases mean millions have been pushed into poverty and malnutrition.

The Facts

Food prices change in response to such things as climatic shocks, energy prices, demand for biofuels, speculation, and trade policy. Oil price increases affect the price of fertilizers as well as the cost of shipping and transportation. Demand for biofuels such as corn ethanol increases world demand for particular crops and changes crop distribution. Following the 2008 financial crisis, many investors shifted funds from mortgage markets to agriculture commodities creating a demand shock that increased commodity prices. Additionally, since the 1980s, many countries have moved from self-sufficiency to being net food importers. This increases their exposure to supply and price risks instigated abroad.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported a 45% increase in the world food price index during the 2008 food crisis. Wheat prices increased by 130% relative to 2007 levels. Similarly, soy prices went up by 87%, rice prices by 74%, and maize prices by 31%. While the short-term causes of the crisis include weather shocks, increased oil prices, speculation, and growing demand for biofuels, many experts believe trade agreements and agricultural commoditization set the stage for tremendous price increases. Similar reasons are cited for the 2011 food crisis, which has sparked riots, protests, and strife around the world.

What we are doing about it

Citizens can work together to change the economic climate that has produced the recent food crises. The Oakland Institute is committed to studying root causes of global food crises and, through its advocacy and outreach activities, ensuring that the right solutions find their way into on-the-ground policy.

Publications

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Continued Price Instability Questions Reliance on Global Food Markets

Frederic Mousseau, OI Policy Director, is the author of the Chapter III of the new World Disaster Report published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). This new report warns that the world's poorest people are at serious risk from rocketing food prices and volatile global markets.

Achieving Regional Integration: The Key to Win the Fight Against Hunger in West Africa

Achieving Regional Integration: The Key to Win the Fight Against Hunger in West Africa assesses the relevance and potential of regional institutions and mechanisms in reducing hunger and undernutrition in West Africa - where chronic hunger remains pervasive - decades after the devastating droughts of the 1970s. The report analyzes the role regional institutions have in the fight against hunger and argues that, despite weaknesses, the existence...

Food & Energy Sovereignty Now: Brazilian Grassroots Position on Agroenergy

While Brazil's leadership on biofuels - particularly sugarcane-based ethanol - has been held as a global model for sustainable biomass production, a new report from the Oakland Institute and Terra de Direitos, Food & Energy Sovereignty Now: Brazilian Grassroots Position on Agroenergy , describes the opposition that biofuels face from the Brazilian social movements and civil society, as formulated at the First National Agroenergy Conference,...

The Status of International Food Aid Negotiations

In October 2005, the Oakland Institute published its report, Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger in our Time. Since then the issue of food aid has taken center stage in foreign aid, global hunger, and development discourse, sparking interest and debate amongst policy makers, media, and civil society internationally.

The 2008 Food Price Crisis: Rethinking Food Security Policies

The 2008 Food Price Crisis: Rethinking Food Security Policies, the latest in the G-24 Discussion Paper Series, is a timely report as member states of the United Nations come together 16-18 November, 2009 at the World Summit on Food Security in Rome, in an effort to find lasting solutions to world hunger. Intended to inform current policy discussions on how to address ever-growing food insecurity, the report contends that it is essential to...

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