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Food Price Spikes, Price Insulation, and Poverty

In: The Economics of Food Price Volatility

  • Kym Anderson
  • Maros Ivanic
  • William J. Martin

This paper has two purposes. It first considers the impact on world food prices of the changes in restrictions on trade in staple foods during the 2008 world food price crisis. Those changes -- reductions in import protection or increases in export restraints -- were meant to partially insulate domestic markets from the spike in international prices. The authors find that this insulation added substantially to the spike in international prices for rice, wheat, maize, and oilseeds. As a result, although domestic prices rose less than they would have without insulation in some developing countries, in many other countries they rose more than they would have in the absence of such insulation. The paper's second purpose it to estimate the combined impact of such insulating behavior on poverty in various developing countries and globally. The analysis finds that the actual poverty-reducing impact of insulation is much less than its apparent impact, and that its net effect was to increase global poverty in 2008 by 8 million people, although this increase was not significantly different from zero. Since there are domestic policy instruments, such as conditional cash transfers, that could now provide social protection for the poor far more efficiently and equitably than variations in border restrictions, the authors suggest it is time to seek a multilateral agreement to desist from changing restrictions on trade when international food prices spike.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jean-Paul Chavas & David Hummels & Brian D. Wright, 2014. "The Economics of Food Price Volatility," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number chav12-1, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12818.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12818
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Kym Anderson, 2012. "Agricultural Trade Distortions During the Global Financial Crisis," Departmental Working Papers 2012-05, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    2. Will Martin & Kym Anderson, 2012. "Export Restrictions and Price Insulation During Commodity Price Booms," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 94(2), pages 422-427.
    3. Christophe Gouel & Sébastien Jean, 2015. "Optimal food price stabilization in a small open developing country," Working Papers 274047, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France.
    4. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua & Sangraula, Prem, 2007. "New evidence on the urbanization of global poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4199, The World Bank.
    5. Alderman, Harold & Yemtsov, Ruslan, 2013. "How can safety nets contribute to economic growth ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6437, The World Bank.
    6. Ivanic, Maros & Martin, Will & Zaman, Hassan, 2012. "Estimating the Short-Run Poverty Impacts of the 2010–11 Surge in Food Prices," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(11), pages 2302-2317.
    7. Christine D. Lasco & Robert J. Myers & Richard H. Bernsten, 2008. "Dynamics of rice prices and agricultural wages in the Philippines," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 38(3), pages 339-348, 05.
    8. Pursell, Garry & Gulati, Ashok & Gupta, Kanupriya, 2007. "Distortions to Agricultural Incentives in India," Agricultural Distortions Working Paper 48483, World Bank.
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