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Soaring Food Prices: A Threat or Opportunity in Asia?


  • Ganesh Thapa
  • Raghav Gaiha
  • Katsushi S. Imai
  • Varsha S. Kulkarni


Rising food prices played an important role in the acceleration of inflation across Asia and the Pacific region during 2007 and the early months of 2008. Not only is food price inflation the most regressive of all taxes, it also leads to lower growth and accentuation of income inequality. Although the index of domestic food prices in Asia has exhibited an upward trend, it is not as pronounced as that of the global index. Yet the looming food crisis has the potential of slowing down the momentum of growth and poverty reduction in this region in the short and medium run. The surge in prices of foodgrains cannot be satisfactorily explained in terms of the fundamentals of supply and demand alone. Analysis suggests that a large part of the surge is attributable to speculation. Further, many countries resorted to protective measures without realising that such measures would force more drastic adjustments and higher prices in global markets. While global foodgrain supply shrank through export restrictions and prices rose faster, food importers escalated demand by bidding aggressively for larger imports to dampen domestic inflation. A vicious circle of spiralling food prices was thus sustained by policies designed to protect domestic consumers, but likely to deepen the food crisis. Even if this bout of food price inflation persists for some time, it would be pessimistic to conclude that the threat to the poor and vulnerable sections is inevitable. Much will depend on what the government and development agencies do – especially to strengthen support to smallholders. Given market imperfections, it is imperative that the benefits of more remunerative producer prices accrue in equal measure to smallholders. Expansion of marketable surplus may thus dampen foodgrain price inflation, as well as help to reduce rural poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Ganesh Thapa & Raghav Gaiha & Katsushi S. Imai & Varsha S. Kulkarni, 2009. "Soaring Food Prices: A Threat or Opportunity in Asia?," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 6909, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:6909

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Katsushi Imai & Raghav Gaiha & Ganesh Thapa, 2008. "Foodgrain Stocks, Prices and Speculation," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 6408, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    2. Block, Steven A. & Kiess, Lynnda & Webb, Patrick & Kosen, Soewarta & Moench-Pfanner, Regina & Bloem, Martin W. & Peter Timmer, C., 2004. "Macro shocks and micro outcomes: child nutrition during Indonesia's crisis," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 21-44, March.
    3. Trostle, Ronald, 2008. "Factors Contributing to Recent Increases in Food Commodity Prices (PowerPoint)," Seminars 43902, USDA Economists Group.
    4. von Braun, Joachim & Torero, Maximo, 2008. "Physical and virtual global food reserves to protect the poor and prevent market failure:," Policy briefs 4, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Shilpi, Forhad & Umali-Deininger, Dina, 2007. "Where to sell ? market facilities and agricultural marketing," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4455, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Katsushi Imai & Raghav Gaiha & Ganesh Thapa, 2009. "Has Poverty Reduction Slowed Down in the Developing World? Evidence Based on New Poverty Estimates," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 0902, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    2. Katsushi Imai & Raghav Gaiha & Ganesh Thapa & Abdilahi Ali, 2011. "Re-examination of supply response to changes in food commodity prices in Asian countries," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1113, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    3. Katsushi Imai & Raghav Gaiha & Ganesh Thapa, 2008. "Financial crisis in Asia and the Pacific Region: Its genesis, severity and impact on poverty and hunger," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 0810, Economics, The University of Manchester.

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