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Do Oil Price Increases Cause Higher Food Prices?

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  • Christiane Baumeister
  • Lutz Kilian

Abstract

U.S. retail food price increases in recent years may seem large in nominal terms, but after adjusting for inflation have been quite modest even after the change in U.S. biofuel policies in 2006. In contrast, increases in the real prices of corn, soybeans, wheat and rice received by U.S. farmers have been more substantial and can be linked in part to increases in the real price of oil. That link, however, appears largely driven by common macroeconomic determinants of the prices of oil and agricultural commodities, rather than the pass-through from higher oil prices. We show that there is no evidence that corn ethanol mandates have created a tight link between oil and agricultural markets. Rather, increases in food commodity prices not associated with changes in global real activity appear to reflect a wide range of idiosyncratic shocks ranging from changes in biofuel policies to poor harvests. Increases in agricultural commodity prices, in turn, contribute little to U.S. retail food price increases, because of the small cost share of agricultural products in food prices. There is no evidence that oil price shocks have caused more than a negligible increase in retail food prices in recent years. Nor is there evidence for the prevailing wisdom that oil-price-driven increases in the cost of food processing, packaging, transportation and distribution are responsible for higher retail food prices. Finally, there is no evidence that oil-market-specific events or, for that matter, U.S. biofuel policies help explain the evolution of the real price of rice, which is perhaps the single most important food commodity for many developing countries.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Bank of Canada in its series Working Papers with number 13-52.

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Length: 73 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bca:bocawp:13-52

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Keywords: Inflation and prices; International topics;

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  1. Hicks, Bruce & Kilian, Lutz, 2009. "Did Unexpectedly Strong Economic Growth Cause the Oil Price Shock of 2003-2008?," CEPR Discussion Papers 7265, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "Exogenous Oil Supply Shocks: How Big Are They and How Much Do They Matter for the U.S. Economy?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 216-240, May.
  3. Goncalves, Silvia & Kilian, Lutz, 2004. "Bootstrapping autoregressions with conditional heteroskedasticity of unknown form," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 123(1), pages 89-120, November.
  4. James D. Hamilton, 2012. "Import Prices and Inflation," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 8(1), pages 271-279, March.
  5. Michael J. Roberts & Wolfram Schlenker, 2013. "Identifying Supply and Demand Elasticities of Agricultural Commodities: Implications for the US Ethanol Mandate," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2265-95, October.
  6. Pesaran, M. Hashem & Timmermann, Allan, 2009. "Testing Dependence Among Serially Correlated Multicategory Variables," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 104(485), pages 325-337.
  7. Martin, Will & Anderson, Kym, 2011. "Export restrictions and price insulation during commodity price booms," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5645, The World Bank.
  8. Babcock, Bruce A., 2013. "Ethanol without Subsidies: An Oxymoron or the New Reality?," Staff General Research Papers 37416, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  9. Bassam Fattouh, Lutz Kilian, and Lavan Mahadeva, 2013. "The Role of Speculation in Oil Markets: What Have We Learned So Far?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
  10. Mindy L. Mallory & Dermot J. Hayes & Scott H. Irwin, 2010. "How Market Efficiency and the Theory of Storage Link Corn and Ethanol Markets," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 10-wp517, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
  11. Edelstein, Paul & Kilian, Lutz, 2009. "How sensitive are consumer expenditures to retail energy prices?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 766-779, September.
  12. Kilian, Lutz, 2007. "The Economic Effects of Energy Price Shocks," CEPR Discussion Papers 6559, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Serra, Teresa & Zilberman, David, 2013. "Biofuel-related price transmission literature: A review," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 141-151.
  14. Venditti, Fabrizio, 2013. "From oil to consumer energy prices: How much asymmetry along the way?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 468-473.
  15. Atsushi Inoue & Lutz Kilian, 2000. "Bootstrapping Autoregressive Processes with Possible Unit Roots," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0401, Econometric Society.
  16. McPhail, Lihong Lu, 2011. "Assessing the impact of US ethanol on fossil fuel markets: A structural VAR approach," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 1177-1185.
  17. Catherine Hausman & Maximilian Auffhammer & Peter Berck, 2012. "Farm Acreage Shocks and Crop Prices: An SVAR Approach to Understanding the Impacts of Biofuels," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 53(1), pages 117-136, September.
  18. Ephraim Leibtag, 2009. "How Much and How Quick? Pass through of Commodity and Input Cost Changes to Retail Food Prices," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1462-1467.
  19. Graham Elliott, 1998. "On the Robustness of Cointegration Methods when Regressors Almost Have Unit Roots," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(1), pages 149-158, January.
  20. Sims, Christopher A & Stock, James H & Watson, Mark W, 1990. "Inference in Linear Time Series Models with Some Unit Roots," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(1), pages 113-44, January.
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