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Rethinking the global food crisis: The role of trade shocks

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  • Headey, Derek

Abstract

Although fundamental factors were clearly responsible for shifting the world to a higher food price equilibrium in the years leading up the 2008 food crisis, there is little doubt that when food prices peaked in June of 2008, they soared well above the new equilibrium price. Numerous arguments have been proposed to explain overshooting, including financial speculation, depreciation of the United States (US) dollar, low interest rates, and reductions in grain stocks. However, observations that international rice prices surged in response to export restrictions by India and Vietnam suggested that trade-related factors could be an important basis for overshooting, especially given the very tangible link between export volumes and export prices. In this paper, we revisit the trade story by closely examining monthly data from Thailand (the largest exporter of rice), and the United States (the largest exporter of wheat and maize and the third largest exporter of soybeans). In all cases except soybeans, we find that large surges in export volumes preceded the price surges. The presence of these large demand surges, together with back-of-the-envelope estimates of their price impacts, suggests that trade events played a much larger and more pervasive role than previously thought.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Food Policy.

Volume (Year): 36 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 136-146

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:36:y:2011:i:2:p:136-146

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/foodpol

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Keywords: World food crisis International grain trade Export restrictions Demand surges;

References

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  1. Paul Dorosh, 2009. "Price stabilization, international trade and national cereal stocks: world price shocks and policy response in South Asia," The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 137-149, June.
  2. Derek Headey & Shenggen Fan, 2008. "Anatomy of a crisis: the causes and consequences of surging food prices," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(s1), pages 375-391, November.
  3. C. Peter Timmer, 2009. "Did Speculation Affect World Rice Prices?," Working Papers 09-07, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
  4. Cooke, Bryce & Robles, Miguel, 2009. "Recent food prices movements: A time series analysis," IFPRI discussion papers 942, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  5. Headey, Derek & Fan, Shenggen, 2010. "Reflections on the global food crisis: How did it happen? How has it hurt? And how can we prevent the next one?," Research reports 165, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  6. Irwin, Scott H. & Sanders, Dwight R. & Merrin, Robert P., 2009. "Devil or Angel? The Role of Speculation in the Recent Commodity Price Boom (and Bust)," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 41(02), August.
  7. Christopher L. Gilbert, 2010. "How to Understand High Food Prices," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 398-425.
  8. Keith O. Fuglie, 2008. "Is a slowdown in agricultural productivity growth contributing to the rise in commodity prices?," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(s1), pages 431-441, November.
  9. Abbott, Philip C. & Hurt, Christopher & Tyner, Wallace E., 2008. "What's Driving Food Prices?," Issue Reports 37951, Farm Foundation.
  10. Mitchell, Donald, 2008. "A note on rising food prices," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4682, The World Bank.
  11. Timmer, C. Peter, 2010. "Reflections on food crises past," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 1-11, February.
  12. Erdal Atukeren, 2008. "Christmas cards, Easter bunnies, and Granger-causality," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 42(6), pages 835-844, December.
  13. Piesse, Jenifer & Thirtle, Colin, 2009. "Three bubbles and a panic: An explanatory review of recent food commodity price events," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 119-129, April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Dorosh, Paul A. & Rashid, Shahidur, 2013. "Trade subsidies, export bans and price stabilization: Lessons of Bangladesh–India rice trade in the 2000s," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 103-111.
  2. Koliai, Lyes & Avouyi-Dovi, Sanvi & Ano Sujithan, Kuhanathan, 2014. "On the determinants of food price volatility," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/12798, Paris Dauphine University.
  3. Christophe Gouel & Sébastien Jean, 2012. "Optimal Food Price Stabilization in a Small Open Developing Country," Working Papers 2012-01, CEPII research center.
  4. Paolo E. Giordani & Nadia Rocha & Michele Ruta, 2012. "Food Prices and the Multiplier Effect of Export Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 3783, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Gutierrez, L. & Piras, F., 2013. "A Global Wheat Market Model (GLOWMM) for the Analysis of Wheat Export Prices," 2013 Second Congress, June 6-7, 2013, Parma, Italy 149760, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA).
  6. Estrades, Carmen & Terra, María Inés, 2012. "Commodity prices, trade, and poverty in Uruguay," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 58-66.
  7. Karapinar, Baris & Tanaka, Tetsuji, 2013. "How to Improve World Food Supply Stability Under Future Uncertainty: Potential Role of WTO Regulation on Export Restrictions in Rice," 135th Seminar, August 28-30, 2013, Belgrade, Serbia 160387, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  8. Larson, Donald F., 2013. "Blue water and the consequences of alternative food security policies in the Middle East and North Africa for water security," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6464, The World Bank.

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