Long-term cereal price changes: how important is the speculative element
The objective of this article is to provide an analysis of the relationship existing between cereal prices and several variables such as population, income, exports, the exchange rate, and speculation, by using a linear regression analysis. Specific emphasis is placed on the speculative dimension. The methodology used helps us explore the forms of relationships between the different variables, and, more specifically, it gives an insight into the extent of speculation during the recent critical time period. Our results show that speculation (defined by the long position of traders) has played a crucial role during the period June 2001 – December 2009. According to our analysis, speculation it is the most relevant independent variable that affects cereal prices. Exports, in some ways connected to the former variable, occupy second place, in term of significance. However, their impact on cereal prices is less relevant than that of biofuel production. Population growth does not have impact in a positive way on cereal prices; it acts in the opposite direction due to the change in diets, implying that population increases would tend to affect primarily other agricultural markets. Excessive volatility in food prices, as that observed in the last years is a dramatic question. From a demand point of view, consumers in developing countries and vulnerable income groups in other countries (farmers) have to be protected. More than one policy on both international markets and domestic markets have to be introduced so as to lessen food/cereal lower price volatility.
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