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Rising food prices in Sub-Saharan Africa : poverty impact and policy responses

  • Wodon, Quentin
  • Zaman, Hassan

The increase in food prices represents a major crisis for the world's poor. This paper aims to review the evidence on the potential impact of higher food prices on poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, and examines the extent to which policy responses will benefit the poor. The paper shows that rising food prices are likely to lead to higher poverty in sub-Saharan Africa as the negative impact on net poor consumers outweighs the benefits to poor producers. A recent survey shows that the most common policy response in sub-Saharan African countries is reducing taxes on food while outside the region price controls or targeted consumer subsidies are the most popular measure. Sub-Saharan African countries also have a higher prevalence of food-based safety net programs which are being scaled up to respond to rising prices. The review suggests that the benefits from reducing import tariffs on staples may accrue largely to the non-poor. Social protection programs show more promise, but geographic targeting is likely to be crucial in ensuring that benefits reach the neediest. The paper also argues that anti-poverty interventions ought to retain their focus on rural areas where poverty remains highest even after taking into account the adverse impact on the urban poor due to the rise in food prices.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4738.

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Date of creation: 01 Oct 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4738
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