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Food stocks and grain reserves: evaluating whether storing food creates resilient food systems

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  • Evan Fraser

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  • Alexander Legwegoh
  • Krishna KC

Abstract

Many are worried that the global food system is entering a period of intense volatility driven by a combination of climate change and population growth. One way to address this problem is for governments and the international community to store more food as a buffer against crisis. The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of food storage as a component of a robust food security strategy in the twenty-first century. We do this by first drawing on historical examples from ancient Rome and China, where preindustrial government designed extensive systems that ensured adequate food storage to keep food systems stable. Next, we review the links between food storage and price volatility in the last 20 years and demonstrate that the size of food stores (and in particular grain reserves) directly relates to price volatility. Third, we explore three different types of policies designed to promote grain reserves, the US’s “ever-normal granary” policy, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the Strategic Grain Reserve in Africa. In this third section, we show how there has been a decline from state-owned strategic grain reserves in favor of a more market-oriented approach that is dominated by a handful of powerful corporations who maintain sophisticated supply chains. Because data on the amount of food supply these corporations hold in storage are proprietary secrets, it is impossible to assess how resilient or vulnerable this makes our food system. Finally, we conclude that over time, food storage has fallen in and out of favor, criticized for being expensive yet often shown to play an important role in protecting poor consumers in times of food crisis. Given the lack of data on current levels of supply chain and household storage, more research is needed to evaluate the scale at which food storage systems should be implemented to ensure food system resilience as well as the most effective mechanisms to govern and manage them. Copyright AESS 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Evan Fraser & Alexander Legwegoh & Krishna KC, 2015. "Food stocks and grain reserves: evaluating whether storing food creates resilient food systems," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 5(3), pages 445-458, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jenvss:v:5:y:2015:i:3:p:445-458
    DOI: 10.1007/s13412-015-0276-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. JoAnn Jaffe & Michael Gertler, 2006. "Victual Vicissitudes: Consumer Deskilling and the (Gendered) Transformation of Food Systems," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(2), pages 143-162, June.
    2. Tim Lang, 2003. "Food Industrialisation and Food Power: Implications for Food Governance," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 21(5-6), pages 555-568, December.
    3. Donald F. Larson & Julian Lampietti & Christophe Gouel & Carlo Cafiero & John Roberts, 2014. "Food Security and Storage in the Middle East and North Africa," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(1), pages 48-73.
    4. Daniel A. Sumner & Julian M. Alston & Joseph W. Glauber, 2010. "Evolution of the Economics of Agricultural Policy," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 92(2), pages 403-423.
    5. Joseph S. Davis, 1938. "The Economics of the Ever-Normal Granary," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 20(1), pages 8-21.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gerald Marten & Nurcan Atalan-Helicke, 2015. "Introduction to the Symposium on American Food Resilience (Part 2)," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 5(4), pages 537-542, December.
    2. Rebekah Paci-Green & Gigi Berardi, 2015. "Do global food systems have an Achilles heel? The potential for regional food systems to support resilience in regional disasters," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 5(4), pages 685-698, December.

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